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On August 20th, 2015, during the festive period of the Theotokos, in the town of Dhërmi in Southern Albania, the local community of Orthodox faithful was provoked by a serious incident, caused by the local government authorities with the support of law enforcement. Unexpectedly, municipality employees of Himara went to the church of St. Athanasius, removed icons and other sacred items, and began to destroy the church building. These actions were undertaken without the awareness of the Orthodox community and with no prior notice or legal documentation.
Once these actions became known, the faithful together with the church Priest went to the church to protest, intervene, and prevent any further damage. They expressed their indignation about such flagrant acts and declared that they are ready at any moment to defend their church in the event of further attempts to destroy this holy place. Again in the afternoon, they gathered to protest.
The attempt to expel the faithful from their church, which is the property of the Orthodox community, becomes even more scandalous, as it violates all possible laws. The event demonstrated a profound lack of respect towards religion and religious communities. It resembles the actions of the atheist Communist system that destroyed the church of St. Athanasius for the first time in 1972 and used the church stones to build a water depot. In 1992, the residents built a new church in the place of the old one. This new Church has served the community as a place of worship for 23 years. However, it is once again being destroyed as it was 43 years ago!
Above all, such an abusive action carried out by state employees constitutes a flagrant violation of the Law no. 10057 / 22.01.2009 / “On Ratification of the Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Albania and the Orthodox Church of Albania,” which guarantees the inviolability of places of worship and protects them from the state. Such private abusive initiatives, officially guised and subject to sinister interests, must be strongly condemned by state authorities, since they seriously affect the relations between religious communities. Surprisingly, such acts occur only against Orthodox Holy places and objects.
Hopefully, those people who were implicated in this scandalous act of the desecration of a holy place will realize that they acted wrongly, will repent before God and the community, and will respect the law.
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