Russian Americans worry about backlash after Boston bombings - My29 WFTC Minneapolis-St. Paul

Russian Americans worry about backlash after Boston bombings

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FRIDLEY, Minn. (KMSP) -

After Sept. 11, 2001, many Americans became suspicious of -- even hostile toward -- those with heritages tracing back to the Middle East, and the Russian American community now fears the same could happen to them.

In fact, one local Russian church is so concerned, they have already contacted their local police department to ask for additional security as the Orthodox Easter approaches.

For a quarter of a century, the Russian Orthodox Church of the Resurrection of Christ has held worship services in Fridley.

"Peace, prayer, concern, love and forgiveness is very important," said Father John Magram. "We hope people know we open our hearts to everyone."

Even with that mission, many congregants worry others will connect them to the bombers just because of their culture.

"I think we are very fearful because we know that happens," Magram explained. "People have misunderstanding, so we are very concerned."

The two brothers suspected in the Boston Marathon bombings are from a family that fled civil war in Chechnya in the early 1990s, seeking asylum in the U.S. a decade ago. Their father currently lives in Russia, but the two regions are very different and the area's history is complex.

"Just try to call a Chechen a Russian. He will be really upset by it," said Maria Zavialova, curator of the Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis. "It's a different culture, a different language, a different religion."

Zavialova grew up while Russia and Chechnya were at war.

"Chechnya is a small region in the mountains, and it's been struggling, fighting for its independence from Russia, for a long time," she explained.

While Zavialova moved to Minneapolis more than a decade ago, but she said the bombings in Boston brought back bad memories.

"I thought, 'Well, it's creeping over from Russia to America now,'" she said.

Both Russian and Chechen officials deny the suspects are linked to any extremist groups in either area -- and the extremist groups themselves have denied involvement, even condemned the attacks; however, the Russian churchgoers who spoke with FOX 9 News admit they fear Americans won't separate the two.

Magram told FOX 9 News parishioners have come to him for counsel, and he even spoke with a priest about his own fears.

"Somehow, people want to express their being upset about it, and sometimes they take it out on other people who are Russian," Magram said.

So, just like other faith leaders across the globe, the congregation is praying for peace and acceptance for all.

"We are praying that people will understand us and give us a chance to explain if they ask," Magram said.

While the church has not received any specific threats, they plan to have additional security as a precaution during their Easter services.

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