Over $1 million raised for three black Louisiana churches destroyed by arson

A GoFundMe campaign saw more than $750,000 in donations in a 24-hour span after it was widely shared on social media Tuesday.

ST. LANDRY PARISH, LA (WAFB) - Millions of donations continue to pour in for the famous Notre Dame cathedral in Paris after a devastating fire burned parts of it Monday. On Tuesday, it prompted donors to do the same for three black churches destroyed by arson in Louisiana.

By Wednesday morning, over $1 million had been raised for the St. Landry Parish churches.

A GoFundMe campaign saw more than $750,000 in donations in a 24-hour span after it was widely shared on social media Tuesday. Many donors noted that while hundreds of millions have already been pledged to rebuild the famous cathedral, the small churches were still struggling.

"These churches are literally the soul of their communities. They will never reach the level of attention that Notre Dame will. They are equally as deserving," Elaine Syres said.

“Notre Dame will be made whole, so should these holy places,” Philip Feldman wrote.

The campaign was started on Wednesday, April 10 by the Seventh District Baptist Association, which includes 54 Baptist churches in southwest Louisiana, including the three that were burned.

"These churches are historically important, maybe not on a world-wide scale, but to the families who have been parishioners for decades," Carissa Smith wrote on campaign's page.

A screenshot of the campaign taken early Tuesday morning showed it had raised $92,939. That number skyrocketed to over $950,000 by Wednesday morning thanks to the circulation on Twitter by former first lady and secretary of state Hillary Clinton, CNN anchor Jake Tapper, and journalist Yashar Ali.

“My heart is broken over the loss of Notre Dame,” Megan Romer tweeted. “The Catholic Church is also one of the world’s wealthiest entities. If you are going to donate money to rebuild a church this week, I implore you to make it the black churches in St. Landry Parish.”

More than 17,000 people have donated in just six days.

The fires began on March 26 in St. Landry Parish, and within 10 days, three historically black churches were torched in what federal authorities are calling hate crimes.

The man accused of setting them, Holden Matthews, 21, is the son of a deputy sheriff and has been charged with three counts of arson of a religious building, and three charges of hate crimes - one for each blaze.

“You have caused pain and you have caused hurt, but know this, you cannot destroy our faith. We can have church anywhere,” said Dana Nichols, ATF special agent in charge for New Orleans.

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