(the following info is on pgs 234 & 235 of the 2009 Yearbook)
(Kosovo, on map-outline showing lands of the former Yugoslavia)
(Brother Saliu Abazi)
The tension between Serb and Albanian communities in Kosovo through the 1980's erupted into open combat in the 1990's, resulting in much suffering and heartache. This situation provided our brothers and sisters with the opportunity to show "unhypocritical brotherly affection" to fellow believers of all ethnic backgrounds. (1 Peter 1:22) In addition, they have obeyed Christ's command "to love your enemies and to pray for those persecuting you." (Matthew 5:43-48) Yet, at times, it has been challenging to do so.
"Brothers who used to be Muslim are not always received kindly by practicing Muslims," explains Saliu Abazi, a former Muslim who speaks Albanian, "and our families wrongly conclude that we have abandoned them because we have chosen a new religion. Then, too, because of the ethnic tensions between Albanians and Serbs, it is not always easy for former Muslims to preach to Serbs."
Nevertheless, a multiethnic group of 30 people was meeting together in Saliu's home. "In those years," remembers Saliu, "meetings were held in Serbian, and we received our literature from Belgrade. One day the police unexpectedly came to my house. At the time the brothers from Belgrade had just delivered the literature, and we were all associating together. When I told the police that they were my brothers, they could not comprehend how Serbs and Albanians could be brothers." In 1998 this group of publishers was able to rent a place for use as a Kingdom Hall in the largest city in Kosovo, Priština.
In the spring of 1999, ethnic tensions and nationalism intensified alarmingly. "My neighbor threatened that if my son and I did not join the war, our house would be burned down," relates Saliu. "The political climate had a terrible effect on people. Because they did not recognize the former Serb government, laws could not be enforced, and people became violent and did whatever they pleased."
As the political situation deteriorated, conditions became increasingly difficult for Serbs living in Kosovo. During the conflict of 1999, both Serbs and Albanians by the thousands were forced to flee to neighboring countries. Yet, in that climate of extreme ethnic strife, Saliu risked his life by allowing his Serb brothers to take refuge in his home.
~continued on pgs 238-240~
(the following experience is a beautiful example of a young person who overcame multiple obstacles standing in her way...illiteracy and severe opposition by a member of her own family)
One young woman of Roma descent learned the truth as a child from her aunts who lived abroad. The first obstacle she had to overcome was her illiteracy. Motivated by love for Jehovah, she learned to read and write during the three years she was studying the Bible. (which is quite an achievement in-and-of-itself, because the Bible is not an easy book to read, especially for a beginner!) The second obstacle was her grandfather, with whom she lived.
"I would sneak out of the house to go to meetings," she says. But when she returned, her grandfather would beat her. "I suffered physically becaused of the truth," she relates, "but I would not give up. I reflected on how much the faithful man Job had to suffer. My love for Jehovah was strong, and I was determined not to stop studying." She now serves as a pioneer, and she is conducting a Bible study with two girls who are illiterate. Although she never received secular schooling, she is grateful for the way the Theocratic Ministry School has trained her to teach others.
(and here's a great experience of another young person who overcame obstacles to his faith, which ended up benefiting his family later on)
Adem Grajçevci was a Muslim before he learned the truth in Germany in 1993. Then, in 1999, he returned to his native Kosovo, and like many other new Witnesses, he had to overcome his family's prejudices and opposition. "When I was learning the truth," recalls Adem, "it helped me a lot to know that Satan is the ruler of the world and that he is behind all the atrocities taking place." Adem's father was not pleased with his son's new Christian faith and told him to choose between Jehovah and the family. Adem chose Jehovah, continued to make steady spiritual progress, and today serves as a Christian elder. Happily, over the years Adem's father has softened, and he is now more respectful of Adem's decision.
Adem's son, Adnan, was not interested in religion at all as a child. He was engrossed in martial arts and was given the nickname Killer by his competitors. He gave it all up, though, when the truth finally touched his heart. He made good progress and was baptized. "Not long after I was baptized, I had to make a decision," he said. "I had a good job, and I was doing well materially. But spiritually I was suffering and had little time for the ministry. I decided it was time for a change, so I quit my job." He started pioneering, was appointed as a ministerial servant, and was later invited to attend the first class of the Ministerial Training School in Albania. Now an elder, Adnan and his wife, Hedije, are serving as special pioneers. How does he feel about the decision he made? "I could not be happier," he says. "I have no regrets about choosing the full-time ministry."
United Worship and Instruction
Today all six congregations in Kosovo use rented facilities for Kingdom Halls. Some congregations are small, such as the one in the city of Peć, which has 28 publishers. With too few appointed brothers available, some congregations are not able to have a public talk every week. Nevertheless, they, like the brothers and sisters in Peć, faithfully meet together each week for the Watchtower Study and the other congregation meetings. For years the Serbia Country Committee lovingly shepherded the brothers in Kosovo through extremely difficult times. In 2000, to meet the changing needs of the brothers, the Governing Body assigned the Albania branch to care for the preaching work in Kosovo.
Until recently, most of Jehovah's Witnesses in Kosovo were Serbs, so the meetings were held in the Serbian language, and the brothers were happy to help Albanian-speaking people follow the program. Now the situation is reversed. Most of the brothers in Kosovo are Albanian. Except for one Serbian-language congregation, meetings are conducted in Albanian, and the brothers are pleased to interpret the talks so that the Serb brothers can follow along. Assemblies and district conventions are held in both languages. For example, the entire 2008 district convention program was presented in Albanian and translated into Serbian, with key discourses delivered in Serbian by Kosovar elders.
Explains one brother, "Despite the hatred felt outside, inside the hall we are one family."
Though most inhabitants of Kosovo are Muslim, they respect the Bible, and many are willing to discuss religion.