Republic of Malta
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The Republic of Malta, in the center of the Mediterranean Sea, is an archipelago of three inhabited islands and three rocky outcroppings, located 93 km (58 miles) south of Sicily. The islands cover a land mass of only 320 sq km (124 sq miles) with a population of nearly 390,000 on the three islands of Malta, Gozo and Comino. The island of Malta is the largest and most densely populated island of the Republic. Recognizing the importance of the islands and its many harbors several civilizations have sought to occupy it, including the Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans. It was during the Roman occupation that the Apostle Paul was shipwrecked here in about 58-60 A.D. Malta later became a part of the Byzantine Empire but fell to the Arabs in the ninth century. Count Roger of Normandy arrived in 1090 to drive out the Arabs and the islands were then governed by the rulers of Sicily until falling to Spain in 1282. In 1530 King Charles V of Spain awarded the islands to the religious order, the Knights of Saint John, who built and fortified the city of Valletta, now the capital city. Napoleon took the islands in 1798 and the British seized Malta two years later, holding them until 1947 when they were granted self-government as a parliamentary democracy. Full independence was achieved in 1964. Malta remains within the Commonwealth. Today the Republic of Malta is governed by a single legislative body known as the House of Representatives.
Tourism is the mainstay of Malta’s economy with over 1 million visitors a year, largely from the United Kingdom. Ship repair and textile manufacture are other important industries for the islands. Limestone for building is one of the few natural resources. There are no natural sources of energy and most foodstuffs must be imported.
Outside of the Vatican, Malta is considered the bastion of Roman Catholicism with 98% of the population claiming that faith tradition.
The American a cappella Churches of Christ first began to focus on Malta in 1973 when congregations in Texas sponsored four families to begin mission work on the islands. These were the families of Elmer Bell, Jim Parker, Willie Tolison and Gene Van Noord. The team soon began to advertise with Star Bible tracts, offer Bible correspondence courses and visit in homes. A few early converts were baptized but this activity led the Catholic government to expel the Americans in 1976. With continued assistance from Christians in the United Kingdom and through considerable effort a small congregation of ten was sustained under the service of native preacher George Ebejer and gained official recognition. George also teaches technical drawing and is a school librarian. Annually Gene Van Noord visits the church in Malta to encourage these Christians.
Clinton J. Holloway
National Profiles Editor
Revised by Gary Holloway, December 11, 2013
24 Tower St., Cospicua, Malta
In the United States contact: Gene Van Noord
806 E. 10th Street
Cameron, TX 76520