Window on the World - Macedonia

Diane Shipp

Macedonia is a country the size of Wales with a population of approximately two million. As the poorest of the republics it became independent from the former Yugoslav Federation in 1991. When asked, most people still don’t know where Macedonia is! It has had recent media coverage, receiving 250,000 refugees during the 'Kosovo Crisis' and teetering on the brink of civil war itself in 2001 with 10,000 people displaced within the country.

It has been referred to as a 'melting pot of nations' and, as well as Macedonians, has a large Albanian minority (30%). Skopje, the capital, has the largest settled Gypsy community in the world. Into the mixture you can also add Serbs, Turks and other smaller groups.

There is a fragile peace at present, but ethnic tensions run deep and terrorist groups still threaten this country's future. The economic situation hasn’t improved since its independence and unemployment is running at 50%.

To be Macedonian is to be Orthodox. Sadly, for most people, this has more to do with tradition and identity than belief. Very few have ever read the Bible and wouldn’t contemplate the fact that it’s possible to know God personally! Albanians and Gypsies are Muslim. Into the mix you will also find a lot of superstition and occult practices, and a country that had 50 years of Communism is now being more and more exposed to western culture and an interesting mixture of weird cults and ideas. Religion and tradition blind most to the life-changing truth of the gospel. Anything 'Protestant' is viewed with suspicion, although the former President of Macedonia, Boris Trajkovski, was a Methodist lay preacher and did much to change people’s attitudes. It was a great tragedy for Macedonia when he died in a plane crash last year.

God is on the move in this country and several new churches have been established over the past few years. There is a growing testimony of lives that have been changed. New initiatives are springing up and there are small groups of believers beginning to gather in towns which previously had no such fellowships. Amongst the Gypsy community in Skopje the church is growing really fast.

The emerging church in Macedonia is still young and vulnerable and needs the prayers of the wider body of Christ. It is short on resources but faith is growing as to what God will do in this nation.

Diane Ship is working with the Evangelical Church in Skopje and was sent out from the Independent Church in West Bridgford, Nottingham.

Headline Winter 2004/5 p.6.