As someone who has lived in the United States for her entire life, I felt that religion was a definitive point of one’s identity. Although no one should ever be discriminated against for factors of their identity such as gender or religion, many are. Even in a state as progressive as the United States, people are discriminated against for following a certain religion or celebrating certain holidays. Being as oblivious as I was, I thought this was the case for every state, but in Albania, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Although the country is majority Muslim, there is an incredibly significant amount of Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and even Jewish Albanians, among other religions. While people in the United States judge others for celebrating other Gods, Albanians are very welcoming to other religions. When I discussed this with one of my coworkers, he put it very simply “Why would we try to push out another religion when we could celebrate it and have another reason to party?” There is a common Albanian saying that says although there are plenty of different religions, everyone’s first religion is Albanian. What this saying basically means is that religion is a bonus rather than a defining factor in Albania. Not only is this a common saying, but I have also seen it in practice, being invited to numerous Iftar dinners during my time here. In the United States, I was raised with the idea that religion defined a person and needed to be declared from standardized tests to Facebook profiles. Now that I have lived in Albania for almost 2 months now, my view on religion has shifted from dividing to uniting, giving us even more reasons to celebrate!
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