Russian Orthodox Parish in Georgia shot at second time

When it happened once, Fr. Eugene Antonov and his parishioners assumed it was simply an accident, perhaps a reckless hunter in the rural town, but now that Joy of All Who Sorrow Russian Orthodox Church in Cumming, GA has been attacked and vandalized twice, Forsyth County deputies are searching for assailants with more serious intentions.

While the situation is being taken seriously, deputies have said they see no reason to consider the shootings a hate crime, according to FOX 5 News. Fr. Eugene, who left Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union in search of better opportunities for his family, is not so sure.

“Why would someone want to do this?” “Because it’s a church, and second because it’s a Russian church.” Fr. Eugene is worried that his parish, which serves the large Russian immigration in Atlanta among others, is getting caught up in the “political firestorm” currently surrounding Russian affairs, President Putin, and the national election.

This time dozens of bullet holes were found in the church’s welcome sign. Fr. Eugene thinks perhaps the shooters wanted “to humiliate us, and probably try to make some sort of statement.” He says, however, the parish means no harm and just wants to worship in peace.

More extensive damage was caused in the first shooting on December 12 when the sign and several sides of the church building itself, including windows, were shot, which FOX 5 News also reported at the time.

The tiny parish had already been fundraising to build a new church in hopes that a more visible presence will help bring more community members to the truth of Orthodoxy. Now they need to raise an additional $5000 to fix the damage caused by the two recent shootings.

Although the parish community is worried, they remain steadfast in their faith. “I don’t want to punish anybody,” Fr. Antonov said after the first incident. “If they would stop and just enjoy a quiet, safe life, it would be enough for me. We are going to enjoy Christmas anyway.”

The church’s fundraising page for covering the costs of the damages can be found here.