Who are we?

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                       28 Jan 2008


Ask a resident of Montenegro who they are and they will say we are Montenegrins and our language is Montenegrin.  The people are proud of who they are and where they live.  The rugged mountains, the deep valleys, the miles of seashore, and the pleasant Mediterranean climate are only the surface features of this country and, likewise, its people.

 The people of Montenegro are made up of a complex mix of forces from outside their borders.  First, the people known as the Illyrians lived here some 2,700 years ago.  Then the Celts from the North moved in closely followed by the Romans from the West.  The Romans built bridges, roads, aqueducts and forts.  Eventually they constructed churches and established the Catholic Church that replaced the pagan gods with a new God.  The power of the Catholic Church lasted only a few hundred years before the Orthodox Church from the East replaced it.  After a few centuries, the Ottoman Turks gained control of much of the surrounding region and brought Islam to the people.  Little Montenegro and some of the independent city-states were able to successfully defend against the Islamic onslaught.  This addition resulted in three religious systems each of which wanted political domination of the country.

 As time went on, more influences were added to the mix.  There were the French and the Russians; … then the Austrians, World War I and the birth of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia; … next Italy, Germany and World War II came to the country; … then fifty years of communism under Marshall Tito and Slobodan Milosevic.  By 1995, only Serbia and Montenegro remained in the once large Federal Republic of Yugoslavia but that federation became very strained.  In 2003, a new, looser federation called simply Serbia and Montenegro emerged.  

 Today, the country is at peace with its neighbors; … at peace with its religious system consisting of Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, and Islam.  For the most part, this coexistence is possible because the people no longer have an involvement in any faith.  They seldom attend the functions of the church and contribute very little to its upkeep.  They consider themselves followers of a particular faith based on tradition and that is sufficient to establish their position as a true believer.

 The Orthodox Church continues to dominate the skyline of Montenegrin cities and towns.  However, most evident in some border areas is a revitalized adherence to the Islamic faith.  In many towns, new mosques are rapidly transforming whole neighborhoods.  Construction of the mosques and Islamic seminaries is made possible with funding from oil rich Arab countries.  The bell towers of the churches are being overtaken by the tall minarets supporting loudspeakers … loudspeakers that broadcast the 5 times daily call to prayer.

 Evangelical Christianity has never been a part of Montenegro.  As of 2005, there are only three small churches with a combined adult membership of about 120.  The task of taking God’s Word to the 700,000 Montenegrins is overwhelming.  It is truly a God sized task.  In Montenegro, the constitution guarantees freedom of religion.  However, Montenegrins are very slow to change their ways.  Since most are steeped in traditional Christianity, they feel no need to adopt a form of religion that would make them an outcast in their family and society. Even though they have no real hope for the future, they cannot see the need to turn to the only real source of hope and peace, Jesus Christ. The failure of the traditional church to meet their spiritual needs has hardened their hearts to the gospel message. 

How will these elementary school kids hear the Good News of Jesus?  What about these high school students?  Will they grow up as their parents not knowing Jesus?  Will they succumb to the wail of the loudspeakers mounted on the minarets or will their lives continue to reflect indifference and apathy to all forms of religion?  For these young people, religion is not even a status symbol.  The cell phone, prominently displayed, has become symbolic of their new religion.  The next generation of Montenegrins has an uncertain future … a future that will be much influenced by forces outside the country.  Will you pray that someday … when Montenegrins are asked, … “Who are you?”,  … they will say, “I am a follower of Jesus”.   Will you be a part of telling the people about Jesus?


Pronunciation Guide:

Illyrians                                  ILL-ear-ee-ans

Montenegro                           MAHN-teh- nee-gro

Slobodan Milosevic                    SLOW-bow-don MEE-low-say-veech

Tito                                         TEE-toe



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