Kosovo Protestant Evangelical Church
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Kosovo Protestant Evangelical Church
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The Kosovo Protestant Evangelical Church (Albanian: Kisha Protestante Ungjillore e Kosovës) (KPEC) is a Protestant church based in Pristina, Kosovo.[a] It is one of the four protected major religions in the Kosovo Law of Religious Freedoms. There are between 10,000 to 15,000 Kosovar Albanians that follow this church, 6,000 in Pristina alone. There are 42 churches in all of Kosovo. Its Chairman Pastor is Artur Krasniqi.
History and Development
The earliest record of the Kosovo Protestant church was found in 1818, by Gjerasim Qiriazi. The British Foreign Bible Society was a Protestant committee for the Ottoman Empire. There was a minor Protestant reformation in the Balkans after the Cyrniea war in 1856 after the Ottoman Turks had to give up. Albania was the sole country in the entire Ottoman Empire to take in the reform beliefs. The first Albanians to convert to Protestantism were Nikolla and Dhimitër of Manastir, who did so in 1876. One year later, Gjerasim Qiriazi also converted.
By 1882, however, the Albanian Evangelical Church family grew up to 36 believers. The first Protestant church was born in Manastir. In this year, prayers and sermons were conducted in the Albanian language. In 1890, a second church was opened in Korça, lead by the newly Christian Gjerasim Qiriazi. Qiriazi was also the head of the first national society within Albania named “Evangelical Brotherhood”. As a result Gjerasim Qiriazi is considered as the father of the Kosovo Protestant Evangelical Church.[self-published source]
The church was officially inaugurated on June 16, 1985, by the leadership of Artur Krasniqi.There is a church in downtown Pristina, that was built after the church was inaugurated in 1985. Since 1999, after the Kosovo War, more Kosovo Albanians have been converting to the church. Currently, about 15,000 Kosovar Albanians follow this church, most of them have converted. 2,000 of them regularly attend church. There is about 6,000 followers in Pristina alone.
Local Protestant churches carry different names, either by its functional or by its organizing structure make the formal religious community which is called The "Kosova Protestant Evangelical Church" (KPEC). KPEC has an ecclesiological structure in the organization of its decision-making and executive bodies. The KPEC church hierarchy is formed in that way so it is doctrinally biblical and practically functional. At the local level, Evangelicals respect the autonomy of local churches in self governing its everyday church affairs. However, at the national level, KPEC bodies are: Assembly (Synod), Council of Ministers (Presbytery) and the Chairman.
The KPEC Assembly is the highest decision-making body in KPEC. The KPEC Assembly, which gathers once a year, is represented by representatives of all KPEC followers. Each Evangelical entity – respectively local churches and organisations of Kosovo – that are KPEC members, are represented by the Legal Representative and in his absence by the Authorised Person. A KPEC member can be represented in the KPEC Assembly by one vote only.
The KPEC Assembly gathers once a year in its Annual Regular Assembly or more often in Irregular Assemblies. During the plenary sessions, which are chaired by the KPEC vice-chairman, amongst other things Assembly brings decisions for the interest of the KPEC, such as acceptance and/or dismissing of KPEC members; possible statutory amendments; approves annual expenses and budget etc. The Assembly also elects with secret ballot the Council of Ministers (CM) and the Chairperson. CM and the Chairperson are elected with a simple majority.
Council of Minister
The Council of Minister (CM) is KPEC’s executive body which comes from the Assembly. The CM has nine members and they can only be members if they are serving in a position of a spiritual leader in a local church. Assembly mandates the CM with a three-year mandate but every year two members are added and two removed.
Assembly itself maintains the election of CM members. Based on merits of the works of the individuals, participants in the Assembly nominate potential candidates who may serve in such post. Supon completion, a list of nine persons is brought for secret ballot. CM members can only be candidates and can only be elected for two consecutive mandates.
After having received the blessing from the Assembly, CM in its first meeting after the KPEC General Assembly, from the elected CM members, elects the Vice-Chairperson and the Treasurer. CM meets once a month in regular CM meeting and more often if required.
After CM members have been elected, the Assembly selects nominees from this list – the potential candidates for KPEC Chairperson. (KPEC Chairperson is also the Chairperson of the CM). After presenting candidatures, based on merits and the best program presented, Assembly administers an election of the Chairperson. The ballot is direct and secret. A simple majority is required for election of the Chairperson for the next four-year mandate.
The KPEC Chairperson can only be a candidate and be elected for two consecutive mandates. The KPEC Chairperson represents the institution of the KPEC before KPEC members and before other state and international institutions. The Chairperson together with the vice-chair prepares the agenda for CM meetings and together with the Treasurer prepares and manages the annual budget, which is brought before the Assembly for approval. The current KPEC Chairman is Pastor Artur Krasniqi.
The Kosovo Protestants have been in conflict with the ethnic Albanian Muslims that live in Kosovo. In Prizren, a Muslim extremist beat a Kosovo Protestant Besim Ajeti, a tax collector who was handing out bibles on March 24, 1999. Six people were arrested, but were released due to a lack of evidence. The leader, Krasniqi, even stated that the Muslims said that the Protestants would eventually have to "come to them to the end" because they have no land to "bury their people on".
In what the Protestants say was another example of intimidation, the Islamic community in Đakovica decided to post a list of Protestant missionaries and leaders, together with their addresses, on a website. The information was taken down after complaints to authorities. The Protestants face legal obstacles when they seek to build churches and, in some cases, do not even have the right to bury their dead. Instead, they must ask Islamic imams to perform the burial and pay a fee to the Islamic Community for this service. The community has challenged what it says are onerous restrictions and is presenting its case before the Supreme Court. A particular concern, Krasniqi says, is the current law on religious freedom. Similarly, the KPEC plans to challenge the education ministry’s financing of an Islamic madrasa in the capital. They are calling for clear separation of religion and state, they say the government should not be in the business of funding religious communities.
Many Kosovar Albanian Protestants are afraid to declare themselves Protestant Christians for fear of persecution from local Albanians. Dubbed "secret believers", they attend church services without the knowledge of their families and communities. Church members from Muslim backgrounds face intermittent "persecution", including from family members. On 11 May 2003 a member of the Evangelical Church in Gnjilane - previously a Muslim - was severely beaten after receiving several earlier threats. In anonymous phone calls he was accused of being a cross-follower and a traitor.
Evangelical leaders met Kosovar government officials a number of times and even discussed their concerns with the prime minister, Bajram Rexhepi. Two Evangelical churches, in Djakovica and Kosovska Mitrovica, were granted licences for church buildings and more new buildings are planned. Foreign Protestant missionaries are treated well and are respected by the general population. They do not fear for themselves and for their own safety, but are troubled that the national believers live in fear with the constant threat of persecution. Sometimes the entire family is threatened with ostracism even though only one member is a Protestant believer. This always leads to intensified family pressure and, on occasion, to actual beatings suffered by the believer. They attribute such pressure to Muslim extremists. "The radical Muslim fractions causing this suffering attend local mosques and are hidden and protected by these mosques, whose official line is that they have nothing to do with extremist groups," the report alleges. "The general consensus amongst missionaries and national church leaders is that a more aggressive Islamic movement is increasing."
Protestant church buildings have several times been targeted and broken into, with equipment stolen. Frequently, although these incidents were reported to the authorities, police does not investigate them adequately and does not pursue the perpetrators. Some of the Muslims who attacked the main church in Pristina in 2001 have still not been prosecuted, despite the fact that the thieves were recognized and reported to the police.
Protestants are concerned by new plans to introduce religious teaching in schools, fearing that it will be dominated by teaching of Islam and highlight differences with minority faiths. "We believe that the introduction of religion into the school curriculum would lead to segregation of faiths in wider society," the Protestant report declared. "Children would be forced to learn the teachings of religious groups of which they are not part, inevitably those of Islam, in most of the cases." The Protestants fear such plans are part of a growing Islamisation of Kosovo sponsored from outside. "We are alarmed that there are now an excess of mosques in proportion to the amount of Muslims that actually attend them, and these mosques are found in central, visible places," the report notes. "These mosques have been built by Islamic groups that are in Kosova as humanitarian organisations and this causes us concern." Local Muslims have already complained that damaged mosques were restored under Arab direction in Saudi undecorated style, in contrast to the decorated style traditional in Kosovo. 
The latest draft of Kosovo's religion law favoured the five major groups in Kosovo: the Catholics, Muslims, and Serbian Orthodox, and the Kosovar Protestants. Artur Krasniqi stated that Protestants 'do not agree in any way with any discrimination whatsoever towards any religious group'. He was also concerned by the majority Muslim community's attitude to minorities. Chief Imam of Kosovo Sabri Bajgora stated recently that 'Muslims will not be responsible for any consequences whatsoever to Protestants if they do not stop their activity in this country.' 
On June 12, 2012, the liberation day of Kosovo, the government of Kosovo dedicated a monument to dozens of internationals and organizations which have contributed to the peace and prosperity of the nation.The Kosovo Government also thanked Protestant Evangelical believers for all their help given to the Kosova population between 1999-2012. The motto behind this event was the Albanian old saying: “The good friend is shown in difficult days”.
The KPEC President, Secretary and the Office staff were present for the dedication of the historic monument, and on behalf of the Kosova Protestant Evangelical Church, KPEC Secretary Brian Gibson had accepted the certificate of gratitude issued by The Office of the Prime Minister. In the absence of the Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi, the Minister of Culture Memli Krasniqi awarded Certificates.
On April 24, 2009, the World Evangelical Alliance met and accepted the Kosovo Protestant Evangelical Church as a member. The church is also a member of the more regional European Evangelical Alliance. Before the Kosovo War in 1998, the KPEC launched the International Day of Prayer, which also involved fasting, which influenced the rest of the World Evangelical Alliance.On January 31, all the evangelical countries join in prayer for Kosovo and how it suffered through the war. A message is also sent to the politicians in Kosovo to help pray for Kosovo. Ever since 1999 and the breakup of the Kosovo War, the World Evangelical Alliance joins in prayer on every January 31 for Kosovo.
- Kosovo is the subject of a territorial dispute between the Republic of Serbia and the self-proclaimed Republic of Kosovo. The latter declared independence on 17 February 2008, but Serbia continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory. Kosovo's independence has been recognised by 101 out of 193 United Nations member states.
- "Conversion rate". The Economist. 2008-12-30.
- "Mirësevini në faqen zyrtare të Kishës Protestante Ungjillore të Kosovës". Kishaprotestante.net. Retrieved 2012-02-14.
- "Kosovo Protestants tell of hardship, survival". SETimes.com. 2010-12-22. Retrieved 2012-02-14.
- "Development of the Protestant church amongst Albanians". Kishaprotestante.net. Retrieved 2012-02-14.
- "Republican Riot » Kosovo is Multi-religious, except for Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Astrozorianism, Paganism, Wiccanism, Atheism and a few Others". Juliagorin.com. 2011-01-04. Retrieved 2012-02-14.
- Cid, El (2010-12-30). "El Cid Rides Again: Kosovo: Muslims beat, harass, intimidate Christians". Elcidridesagain.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2012-02-14.