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200 attend interfaith vigil at Holocaust museum

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Some 200 people attended an interfaith gathering at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to mourn the death of security guard Stephen Johns.

Johns was killed Wednesday when a gunman, 88-year-old white supremacist James Von Brunn, entered the museum and opened fire.

Organized by the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, the gathering Thursday included speeches and prayers by clergy from Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, Hindu and Bahai traditions, as well as representatives of the German and Israeli embassies.

Clark Lobenstine, executive director of the InterFaith Conference, told the crowd, some of whom held candles, that the vigil was designed to show that "hate has no place in any of our community’s religious traditions."

"Let’s not let this terrorist divide us and prevent us from coming back here," he said.

Martin Peled-Flax, the Israeli Embassy’s director for domestic political affairs, said the attack showed that Holocaust denial is a "pernicious ideology that ultimately leads to insane violence," whether it comes from a "racist and anti-Semite" in Washington or at the highest levels of "leadership of the world stage," an apparent reference to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Museum chief of staff Bill Parson thanked the crowd, saying the "tremendous outpouring since the attack meant a lot."
 

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