Section I. Religious Demography
The U.S. government estimates the total population at 3 million (July 2017 estimate). According to the most recent census conducted in 2011, Sunni Muslims constitute nearly 57 percent of the population, Roman Catholics 10 percent, members of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania nearly 7 percent, and members of the Bektashi Order (a form of Shia Sufism) 2 percent. Other groups include Protestant denominations, Bahais, Jehovah’s Witnesses, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), and a small Jewish community. Nearly 20 percent of respondents declined to answer the optional question about religious affiliation, creating the potential for an undercount. No other official estimate is expected until the next census in 2021.
Section IV. U.S. Government Policy and Engagement
In meetings with the state commissioner on cults and the ATP, embassy officers continued to urge the government to accelerate its handling of religious property claims and to restore to religious groups their property confiscated during the communist era. In June the embassy sponsored the participation of two individuals, including a diversity specialist in the state police, in an exchange program designed to raise awareness and acceptance of human and civil rights for groups, including religious minority communities. The embassy also sponsored the rector of Beder University to attend a Study of the United States Institutes visit to the United States, with a focus on religious tolerance.
The Ambassador and other embassy officers continued to promote religious tolerance in meetings with the Sunni Muslim, Bektashi, Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant communities, and in visits to churches, mosques, and other religious sites. The Ambassador hosted an iftar for Muslim youth from different communities where he stressed the value of religious dialogue and tolerance.
The embassy continued its youth education programs and its work with religious communities to decrease the potential appeal of violent religious extremism. As part of these programs, students at Islamic, Catholic, and Orthodox religious schools planned and carried out projects celebrating religious diversity and tolerance. Other embassy-sponsored programs focused on promoting women’s empowerment in the religious communities in Elbasan and celebrating religious diversity through sports clinics with students from madrassahs and Catholic and Muslim universities. Additional seminars sponsored by the embassy with key religious figures and leaders in government and academia focused on the compatibility of religious faith and democracy.