- Associated Press - Monday, February 11, 2019

NORWALK, Conn. (AP) - For four years, Elona Prroj’s husband, Tani, spent his days hiding in their northern Albanian home. In 2010, Tani’s uncle killed another man during an argument and the slaying sparked a “blood feud” between the families, an ancient conflict that involves retaliatory killings.

Elona and Tani, both pastors, found themselves leading church from their home. After four years in hiding, Tani felt the need to break free. The family decided to move to England.

For the first time in years they could walk free together as a family. But even with all the freedom, Tani still felt restless. Now far away from home, he felt God called upon him to return to Albania and continue his divine mission.

Elona, skeptical of his decision, reminded him of the dangers that would come with going home. Still, Tani insisted.

“Doing this in this community, it would be the craziest thing someone could do,” Elona Prroj told the congregation at Word Alive Bible Church at 536 West Ave. on Sunday morning. “I always saw him as a victim of his mentality and a victim of his community.”

When Tani arrived back in Albania, threats from the other family followed. Tani’s family, other pastors and many community members begged him to retreat, but he refused. “For one year, he was walking in the streets of our city knowing that he was the target of revenge, facing death,” Prroj said.

But all the while, he felt “he was serving God, trusting Him, with all his life and he was ready” if God said it was time to die.

She started reading stories about blood feuds and found an article that said if a target is accompanied by his child or wife, he will not be killed. “And for one year I was trying to run after him,” she said.

But one Friday morning, Tani made a quick stop at church before picking up his children from school. He told Elona he’d return just in time for lunch, but he never made it, she said.

“The brother of the first victim that his uncle killed was waiting for him outside the church,” said Prroj, an international priest. “He shot him eight times and sent him to be with the Lord at the age of 34. The moment he was killed, 24 men of his family were released at that moment. Blood was paid with blood.”

Prroj’s message to the congregation on Sunday was her path to forgiving her husband’s murderer.

One week before Tani was murdered, he had coffee with his brother and said if he were killed in the blood feud the family must promise to forgive the killer.

“It was easier to forgive because it was Tani’s last word and we wanted to do that,” Prroj said. “But you know, it is something to forgive because someone told you to and it’s another thing to forgive because you want to.”

As Prroj took the stage to begin her speech, Artie Kassimis, the pastor of Word Alive Bible Church, said he had awaited her next trip to the United States, so he could invite her to speak to his congregation.

“The message of forgiveness is taught and spoken of, but when you see it in action, especially with the murderer of your husband, to me it changed my entire view of forgiveness,” he said. “There’s so much hate going on in our country today between political parties and people just can’t seem to get over things and forgive and do what’s right. When she told me how she forgave the murderer of her husband, it said to me if you can do that you can forgive anybody.”

On her healing journey, Prroj has studied the origin of blood feuds while working toward a PhD in psychology.

The phenomenon originates within the Catholic community and traces back about 500 years, she said. When the Turks invaded Albania, many Albanians converted from Christian to Muslim, but a subset of Catholics refused and instead retreated to the mountains. There, they created their own community and drafted their own set of laws called the Kanun, which includes the blood feud law.

“It says an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” she said.

But in many cases, families looking for revenge found themselves blocked from their goal amid a vast set of the mountains and difficult terrain. The environment made it easy for targets of blood feuds to run and hide so, the law moved to include six generations of the killer’s family members as targets.

“In 90 percent of the cases they will never kill the killer,” Prroj said. “They want the killer to be alive and they will try to find the youngest and the best in the tribe to cause the deepest pain.”

A pastor at The Word of Christ Church in Shkoder, Albania, Prroj is also the founder of No Blood Feud, Yes to Life Foundation, which helps around 50 families in northern Albania who are confined to their homes because of a blood feud.

“The help we give is material, spiritual and psychological,” according to her LinkedIn.


Online: https://bit.ly/2I73hgo

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