I’ve visited Albania to speak on Langham conferences 5 times now – and one or two delegates have been to every single event. One of them is Dritan (known as ‘Tani’) Prroj. I actually alluded him in a post a few years back, although of course not by name.
His story was one that i found impossible to relate to, let alone comprehend. The ‘system’ of blood feuds (if you can call something as irrational and evil as this a system) goes back centuries. (Wiki has some helpful background to blood feuds in general, and the Albanian form, Gjakmarrja in particular). It is all to do with family honour and revenge. One male from a family gets killed – the victim’s family is duty bound to do the same to the killer’s family. And so it goes on.
Some restrictions were laid down in various codes, like the medieval Kanun of Lekë Dukagjini – so you could not take out revenge on women, children and specifically those doing ‘the Lord’s work’. But still, in various places in northern Albania (where it is most common), it seems that hundreds of school children cannot go to school out of fear and their mothers have to be very careful. It’s truly insane. Whole communities have had their men wiped out in the interminable chain of revenge.
A Terrible Legacy comes close to home.
Tani came from northern Albania – the town of Škodra – which is the epicentre of this legacy. He was pastoring a church in the town – the Word of Christ church. But his uncle had murdered someone some time back. So Tani knew that he was a target. Thus, for 3-4 years, he could never set foot outside his house during daylight. In order to come events such as our Tirana conferences he would have to leave under cover of darkness. He led the church from his front room. Leaders in the church would come to him during the week to be mentored, trained and built up. Then they would run things on Sundays in his absence. It’s impossible to conceive of the psychological effect this must have had on him, his wife Elona and their 2 young children (quite apart from their extended family and the church).
But I’d got to knowTani over the years – as I say, he never missed any of our events. And in 2008, he made it to a 3-day retreat I led for 6 pastors in Tirana. We prayed for him and the family specifically for relief over this issue.
So 3 weeks ago, when we were in Vlore, Tani, Elona and I chatted over coffee – and he said that about a year ago, he remembered that he had sensed the Lord’s peace and providence way back at his conversion. And this was renewed, such that he had the courage to give up the hiding and start carrying on their ministry openly. So for the last year or so, having made the deliberate decision to reject their fears and restart normal living. Very excitedly, the told of the amazing fruit from the ministry in their town, with many being struck by the church’s commitment to supporting those in suffering and difficulty. They’d seen a number of people even baptised. Fantastic and not especially common in this part of the world.
And then on Friday afternoon i got an email. Tani had been murdered that day. Leaving a widow and 2 fatherless children. Senseless. Irrational. Evil.
Friends were at his funeral yesterday (Sunday) and it was a very powerful service. Hundreds were present and heard explanations of the hope that the family profess.
What can you do?
- Pray that out of this evil there would be redemption – that this would somehow break the chain of such madness.
- Pray for the family. That in the bitterness of it all, they would … somehow … cling to the merciful grace and providence of their Lord.
- Give. On the encouragement of some friends, I will do what I can to channel any money to Elona and the family as a way of both supporting her and demonstrating our solidarity with her, across cultures and oceans.
Because of the need for simplicity and urgency, please can you either:
- Send me a cheque (made out to me)
- Give me cash if you bump into me – but please don’t send cash in the post if you can possibly help it.
- Pay online directly through Paypal (it can be in US$, € or £ if you do it this way)
Which every way you use, please LET ME KNOW YOUR INTENTIONS by email (if you know it) or by contacting me through this blog). I fully realise that for those who don’t know me it sounds totally iffy that you’re paying me. I will send you a receipt, and send you proof of the transfer when it’s all done. But I wanted to get this done as quickly as possible and this seemed the simplest and least bureaucratic. The only expenses involved will be the cost of the transfer and currency exchange and nothing else. So 99.9% of what is raised will go to the family at this terrible time.