Albanian church attack ‘act of religious hatred’

TIRANA - The Albanian Greek Orthodox Church protested yesterday against the desecration of an Orthodox church in southern Albania, denouncing it as an act of «religious hatred.» The church is in the village of Dervican, near Gjirokastra, where the population is mostly ethnic Greek. A Church statement said that the building's door and windows had been broken, while icons, vestments and the book of the gospel had been burnt. Over 60 percent of Albanians are Muslims, the rest being Greek Orthodox and Catholic. The Church statement said acts of vandalism had become more frequent after an Iraqi Mufti serving the Muslim population in the same area had been expelled as an undesirable person in 1999. It listed several incidents in which Orthodox churches in the ethnic Greek area had been robbed, set on fire or vandalized. Since 1998, Albania has expelled dozens of Arabs living in the country for fear they were involved in terrorist activities.