Once the cradle of Serbian culture and religion, Kosovo is now 90 percent Albanian and the people take pride in their traditional warmth and hospitality. However, bitter conflicts have devastated the economy and infrastructure, leaving a deep ethnic divide.
Lying adjacent to Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro, Kosovo was the southern-most province of Serbia, until its self-declared independence in February 2008. This small land-locked country of 2 million people has agricultural lowlands fringed by dramatic mountains. Cradle in medieval times of Serbian culture and religion, Kosovo like most of the Balkans was later subject to 500 years of Ottoman Turkish occupation. Dominated by ethnic Albanians for generations, Kosovo has been the subject of many bitter conflicts, most recently in 1999. This devastated the economy and infrastructure, and left a deep ethnic divide. The United Nations and European Union have struggled to address these issues as the nation slowly rebuilds. Kosovo is now 90% Albanian. The other 10% is made up of Serbs and other ethnic groups, but all the population pride themselves on their traditional warmth and hospitality. The legacy of Turkish culture can still be felt in food, music, dance and language. Life moves slowly, and family and relationships are still the hub of society.
FROM RELIGION TO FAITH
Kosovo Albanians are predominantly Muslim, with this identity becoming stronger since the 1999 conflict and independence. There is also a small Albanian Catholic minority. Mother Theresa is an iconic figure for many Albanians. The Kosovo Serbs are Orthodox, and several of the holiest sites in Serbian Orthodoxy are in Kosovo. Since 1999, about 1000 Kosovo Albanians have become evangelical believers, and many churches are led by national pastors. Although evangelical believers have the same legal status as Muslims, Orthodox and Catholics, the church as a whole remains small and under pressure.
Directly following the war in 1999, OM began bringing love and hope to the broken land of Kosovo. Previous teams have participated in some exciting projects of rebuilding and beginning relationships with both Serbs and Albanians. OM currently serves in two of the largest cities, with outreaches to surrounding villages.
The Dukagjini Region of Kosovo lies alongside the Rugova and Nemuna mountains bordering Montenegro. There has been an OM team in this area since 1999. The current team has several ministries:
Rruga e Shpëtimit (Road to Salvation): Re-planting the Church in a Kosovar town
Since 2012, OM has partnered with and supported a small group of believers, “Rruga e Shpëtimit” in a nearby Kosovar town. In addition to organizing the worship service, the team meets with local believers weekly for a prayer meeting and a discipleship meeting. These meetings are designed to encourage, prepare, and train local believers to share their faith in their community. Also, OM leads a children’s service in this church once a week, teaching Bible stories to the children of non-believing families. They also offer youth English classes twice a week, to build relationships with local youth from this town and the surrounding villages.
Rruga e Shpëtimit: Church Planting in a Kosovar city $$$$$ In February 2013, OM started another “Rruga e Shpëtimit,” in a larger city, with the support of the believers from the original congregation. OM seeks for this fellowship to be a centre of light for the city. Alongside their work with women at risk and poor families, church planting falls at the heart of all of OM’s ministries, as we desire to see a healthy Kosovar church emerge among an unreached people.
OM Arts in Kosovo, based in the capital city, Pristina, has a wide-reaching vision:
To build God’s music scene in Kosovo and create a vibrant Biblical community for artists
To unify the Body of Christ around the nation through creative action
To use the gifts and talents of God’s people to transform Kosovo through cultural renewal.
One current initiative is staging concert-tours of Kosovar cities including both local and international artists working together with local churches in each city. Other strategies include running art training camps, occasional workshops, local street outreaches, and music lessons. In the future we also hope to provide musical instruments to talented people in our classes who cannot afford to buy them, and develop a quality studio.
We are also working on opening a full time venue, designed to reach the youth of Kosovo in an environment that they can connect with. This would double as a music and art training centre during the week, offering lessons in various artistic disciplines, such as visual arts, performing arts, music, ect. This venue could also be used as a concert venue/Christian club on the weekends, as well as for hosting galleries and working together with other local ministries who would like to use our centre for events.