Summary: This report analyzes the recent bomb threat incident at the Holy Trinity Monastery and Seminary in Jordanville, New York, the spiritual epicenter of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR). The incident, occurring on September 28, 2023, poses a multifaceted threat to the religious liberties and safety of Christians in the United States. This assessment explores the historical backdrop of persecution faced by Orthodox Christians, drawing parallels with past state-sponsored persecution, such as during the Soviet Union era, to understand the implications for the community's safety and religious freedoms.
I. Background: The Holy Trinity Monastery and Seminary in Jordanville, New York, is a central institution within the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR). On September 28, 2023, the monastery experienced a bomb threat, allegedly linked to suspicions that Jordanville endorsed the war in Ukraine.
II. Threat Assessment:
A. Motivation Behind the Threat:
- The bomb threat arose from the perpetrators' belief that Jordanville supported the war in Ukraine.
- The monastery hosts a webpage titled "Concerning the War in Ukraine," which includes links to statements by religious leaders advocating for peace in Ukraine.
B. Foreign Affairs Article:
- The threat coincided with the publication of an article in Foreign Affairs titled "Putin’s Useful Priests: The Russian Orthodox Church and the Kremlin’s Hidden Influence Campaign in the West." This article asserts substantial support for the Russian government from Russian Orthodox parishes outside of Russia, particularly in the United States.
- The authors contend that this influence has been cultivated over two decades by an unnamed employee of the Russian Church’s Department for External Church Relations.
- Criticism has been directed at the article for factual errors, such as an overestimation of the number of Russian Orthodox parishes in America.
- The article also misrepresents the stance of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church and His Grace Bishop Irenei of London and Western Europe.
C. Media Reporting:
- Recent reports in the mainstream media have suggested that Russian intelligence may be infiltrating Christian churches in the West. It is important to note that no substantiated evidence supporting these claims has been presented.
- An author from the Foreign Affairs article appeared on CNN to discuss the supposed use of Orthodox Christian Churches in the U.S. for espionage activities.
III. Historical Context:
A. State-Sponsored Persecution:
- Historically, Orthodox Christians have faced persecution by states, as evidenced by the Soviet Union's suppression of religious practices during its existence.
- The Soviet regime sought to undermine and weaken religious institutions, often employing tactics of intimidation, imprisonment, and oppression against Orthodox Christians.
B. Parallels with Past Persecution:
- In light of the recent bomb threat at Jordanville and the media's propagation of suspicions concerning Orthodox Christians, there exists a discernible parallel with historical episodes of state-sponsored persecution.
- This historical context heightens concerns about the safety and religious liberties of Orthodox Christians in the United States, particularly when their faith is perceived to intersect with geopolitical issues.
A. Threats to Religious Liberties:
- The bomb threat raises concerns about the potential erosion of religious liberties for Orthodox Christians in the United States.
- It underscores the vulnerability of religious institutions to threats based on perceived political affiliations or external influences.
B. Safety and Security Concerns:
- Beyond religious liberties, the incident poses a direct threat to the safety and security of Orthodox Christians in the United States.
- Historical parallels with state-sponsored persecution increase apprehensions about potential violence against religious communities and places of worship.
Assessment: The bomb threat at the Holy Trinity Monastery and Seminary in Jordanville, New York, presents a complex challenge that jeopardizes the religious liberties and safety of Orthodox Christians in the United States. The incident, rooted in perceptions of political affiliations and external influences, resonates with historical instances of state-sponsored persecution, such as those experienced under the Soviet Union. To safeguard the community's freedom of religious practice and physical safety, vigilant monitoring and assessment of threats, coupled with an understanding of historical context, are imperative.