31st March, 2023
While doing some research for an article, I came across this wonderful Term called ‘Besa’.
It literally means ‘to keep the promise.’
Besa is the highest ethical code in Albania.
One who acts according to Besa is someone who keeps his word, someone to whom one can trust one’s life and the lives of one’s family.
A little known fact is that during WWII, the Albanians vowed to provide a safe haven for Jewish people and Albania was the only country in Europe after the war where there were more Jews than before the war. So the Albanians acted according to ‘Besa.’
For centuries, Albanian conduct has been guided by the ‘Kanun’ and ‘Besa.’
The Albanian word Besa is usually translated in English as “faith,” “trust” or an “oath of peace,” but its real spirit is “to keep the promise.”
Besa lies at the heart and soul of trust in Albanian personal and familial life.
Besa first gained prominence in the ‘Kanun,’ a set of customary oral laws started in the 15th Century, passed down through generations, and not written down until the 19th Century.
The Kanun says: ‘What is promised must be done.’ According to the Kanun of Lek, article 601: “The house of an Albanian belongs to God and the guest.”
Article 603 says: “The guest must be honoured with bread and salt and heart.” Article 609 adds: “Receive a guest also with a fire, a log of wood and a bed.”
While the Kanun of Lek (the best-known kanun) is often perceived as archaic or even feudal, its modern interpretation is really the essence of honour.
Besa as an Albanian code of honour that means “to keep the promise” and “word of honour” and “to protect someone in need regardless of faith, race and nationality.”
“Besa is an important part of personal and familial standing and is often used as an example of ‘Albanianism.”
“Based on besa, Albanians saved thousands of Jews during the Holocaust, one of the darkest period of human history and the Albanians, by their example, showed that the spirit of humanism was alive, and even strong.
Promoting the principles of besa is a great service to the people of our world. We all want to live, and can live, in full peace and harmony free of prejudices and mistrust.
How can we learn how to “keep the promise?” Promise implies taking responsibility for others.
We should ask ourselves: If there is a knock on our door, would we, as individuals, take responsibility?
Let’s take a vow of ‘Besa’, Let’s decide to keep our promises and take responsibility for every knock at our door of a guest and stay blessed forever.