Mon, 27 May 2019

A crowdfunding campaign for three African American churches in Louisiana recently gutted by arson was climbing on Tuesday after social media posts urging the public not to forget the plight of the small houses of worship as the eyes of the world were on the fire-ravaged Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.

"As we hold Paris in our hearts today, let's also sent some love to our neighbors in Louisiana," a Tuesday tweet from Hillary Clinton read.

Freelance journalist Yashar Ali, with 394 000 followers, struck a similar tone, tweeting that the Notre Dame restoration "will be well funded" and urging support for the Louisiana churches.

"It's a blessing, truly a blessing," the Reverent Freddie Jack, president of the Seventh District Missionary Baptist Association, said of the fundraising campaign in a telephone interview on Tuesday night. The three churches are members of the association.

Suspect Holden Matthews, 21, is in custody in connection with the Louisiana fires and faces charges that include hate crimes. The fires happened in and around Opelousas beginning in late March. Matthews was arrested a week ago.

The campaign hit $500 000 on Tuesday evening, with contributions ranging from $5 to thousands of dollars.

"It's all working out for the greater good," Jack said, when asked about the connection being made to the Notre Dame fire.

The money raised is to be distributed equally among the three century-old churches: St Mary Baptist Church, which burned on March 26 in Port Barre, a town just outside of Opelousas; and Greater Union Baptist Church and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas, which burned over the following 10 days.

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