Vigil planned to counteract neo-Nazi rally
While a neo-Nazi group from Minnesota holds a rally at the Statehouse today, members of the Topeka religious community also plan to be there, but in a show of peaceful opposition.
Additionally, Interfaith of Topeka will sponsor a dawn-to-dusk prayer vigil at the Topeka Friends Meetinghouse, 603 S.W. 8th, two blocks east of the Statehouse grounds. Doors will open at 6:30 a.m. today and the vigil will continue until 9 p.m.
Some members of the city's religious community have said they plan to be on hand when the neo-Nazi group marches down city streets near the Statehouse. The rally is expected to take place from 1 to 3 p.m.
Instead of engaging in verbal confrontations with the neo-Nazi group, some religious leaders say they play to turn their backs on the marchers as they file past, and invite the public to join them in their act of silent protest.
Duane Herrmann, president of Interfaith of Topeka, said members of the Baha'i, Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Islamic and Indian faith groups are expected to attend.
"We want to show our solidarity," Herrmann said, "that spirituality is more powerful and more important than the hate and destruction the Nazis represent."
Herrmann said it was important that people from various religious groups be at the Statehouse rally "so we can see that we are not individually alone in our revulsion of what Nazis stand for."
There had been some talk among those in the interfaith community that it may be best to stay away from the rally altogether.
However, it was decided a stronger statement could be made by a religious presence at the event, whereby individuals would turn their backs to the Nazi group.
"The idea of a screaming, shouting protest was not seen as productive, but just buying into the Nazi agenda," Herrmann said. "They want confrontation, so we wanted to stand up and ignore them."
Meanwhile, Herrmann said the 15-hour prayer vigil is designed for people from all faith backgrounds. Participants are invited to "come and go" all day.
Phil Anderson can be reached at (785) 295-1195 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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