Macedonia

Need: Macedonia (Team Leader)

Currently there is no InterAction work in Estonia, but we would like to send InterAction workers to support and strengthen the national IFES movement and to pioneer new student work.

Are you interested? Would you like to be involved in this exciting and important work?

Contact us at info@ifesinteraction.org

What is Macedonia like?

Macedonia is a country with 2 million people and wonderful mountainous nature, land-locked by Bulgaria to the east, Greece to the south, Albania to the west and Kosovo and Serbia to the north. In terms of ethnic groups, 64% of the population is Macedonian, 25% Albanian, 4% Turks, 3% Roma, 2% Serbs and 2% Other.Due to the good geographical position, Macedonia has been a bridge between Western Europe and the East for thousands of years. Today, Macedonians are very proud of this fact and very often, (including people from public life and politics) want to tell each other adn people outside of Macedonia that we are a Biblical country and nation. However, in a country with 33% Muslim and only 0.1% or 2000 people (out of 2million) born-again Christians in Protestant churches, it is right to ask the question whether we can still talk about Macedonia as a Christian country. Unfortunately, today in Macedonia people understand Christianity or Islam as a tradition inseparable with one's ethnicity, which boils down to customs and rituals, without even the slightest knowledge about who Jesus Christ is and what the Bible represents, since not only reading the Bible, but reading in general is a very rare habit.

From the 2nd World War to 1991 Macedonia was part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, where the affirmed worldview was a Communist, that is, an atheist worldview. This means that the generation of our parents and grandparents have inevitably embedded this system of values in their character. After the fall of Communism, religion was widely accepted in the Macedonian culture, but unfortunately predominantly it represented a symbol of national identity of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, not necessarily living faith. All of this had repercussions on the younger generations which are confused by the transition of the political system of the society, from the clash of values: atheism vs. religiosity, socialism vs. market economy. Therefore, we believe that we need to raise a generation which will have a sound view on the world, and we believe that the sound values can only come out of knowing God and His character.

Like all Mediterranean and Balkan countries, Macedonia is also a very relational culture, which means that it's all about relationships of trust - not what you know, but who you know. This renders street evangelism almost completely ineffective, since people need to build relationships of trust, before opening up to different worldviews and values. 

There are four main, public universities in Skopje, Tetovo, Bitola, and Shtip, plus a number of private ones.

Macedonia faces a tremendous unemployment rate of about 33%, and the students are strongly affected by the uncertain future in the society – they are unmotivated by the fact that when they finish their studies they will not be able to get a job. The students are horribly apathetic and in search of securing livelihood after their graduation. That is why even while they are still students they become members of political parties, which promise the students to secure jobs for them, and thereby kill any sound judgment or critical thinking. Instead of being a generation that is hungry for justice, or the kind of driving force which brings the changes in many societies, in Macedonia the students have been almost sterile from societal involvement as citizens, until very recently (2015). Most of the graduates that refuse to be subservient to a political party leave the country, especially the ones from technical universities. There is a great brain drain from Macedonia into the west-European countries, USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and other parts of the world. The students here haven't inherited sound values, because they were born in the apex of the transition from one political system to another, with an unbelievable corruption at all levels of society. This transition hasn't finished even today and the students are disoriented in terms of the values system.

 

What is the present state of the work?

The IFES Macedonia student movement is called the Student Evangelical Association of Macedonia – Exodus, or SEAM Exodus. The movement was planted by our own Dr. Kosta (Ph. D. in Theology at Oxford) and Nada Milkov in 1998. In 2005 Kosta and Nada Milkov left to study in Oxford, and IFES Macedonia changed a couple of General Secretaries.

In the last 15 years over 300 students came through IFES Macedonia, as members of this student organisation, and several thousand students came in touch with the gospel (directly or indirectly), through various events such as student conferences, direct presence of IFES Macedonia in the universities and dormitories, lectures, summer camps, etc.

We believe that since out of this generation of students will come the next leaders who will form the public opinion, we have the obligation and passion to contiune with the christian mission among the students. It is our goal to spread the gospel among them; with thos who become believers we are to make a difference in our society, as was the case with Israel among the pagans. Furthermore, since the outlook for this country is almost hopeless, especially due to the high unemployment rate, we are even more motivated to bring the gospel among the students and bring "metanoia" - renewing their minds.

The oldest Protestant denomination is the Methodist church, dating back to the late 19th century. The Protestant community has grown mostly since the 1990s, with lots of help from missionaries. The first generation of born-again Christians are now trying to become relevant voices in our society and shape the second generation of Christians, who are now students.

 

What does the Team do?

Currently there is only one paid staff and one group of about 15 students meeting in Skopje. The work has been very hard, especially due to the extremely small number of born-again Christians. It has been difficult enough to create a core-group of Christian student volunteers, and thus evangelizing students at universities is an unattainable goal at the moment. Since Macedonian culture is very relationships-of-trust oriented, the only option currently is to invite friends of the Christian student volunteers to our weekly Bible studies.

Since we cannot focus on quantity, we must focus on quality. We want to emphasize our eager desire to work on the emotional health of these students, as well as their spiritual health, to teach them how to be immovable in the Biblical moral values, especially when facing emotional temptations and engaging in romantic relationships.

What special requirements are there for joining the Macedonian InterAction team?

A visa is required for citizens of most countries wanting to live in Macedonia. Visa requirements include a proof of ability to support yourself, and adequate health insurance.

Luckily, almost all students speak English. It is beneficial to learn the Macedonian language in order to work with the Eastern Orthodox Christian majority. If we were to expand working with muslim students, it would also be very important to learn the Albanian language, but that is a future goal.

 

What about accomodation, living costs, courses, jobs?

Since most Macedonians live in apartment buildings, team members would most likely also live in private apartments/flats. We will help with finding accommodation.

You can find a decent apartment/flat in Skopje for about 200 Euro/month and will need to about another 50 Euro/month for utilities (phone, Internet, water, and electricity).

1 Euro is about 61.5 Macedonian denars.

 

Facts Box

Google Map

Population

2,022,547 (2002 census)

Capital

Skopje

Student Population

56,000

Language

Macedonian

Religion

Eastern Orthodox 65%, Islam 33%, Atheism 2%, Other (including Protestant Evangelical): 0.3%

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