As the world mourns this week’s fire at Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral, three historically black Louisiana churches destroyed by arson in recent weeks are getting fundraising attention, thanks in part to the French tragedy.
An online fundraiser for the three places of worship in St. Landry Parish had received more than $1 million in donations as of Wednesday morning, with the majority pouring in since the Paris fire.
“It’s a blessing, truly a blessing,” the Rev. Mason Jack of the Seventh District Baptist Association, a regional group that includes the three churches and is leading the fundraiser, told The Associated Press. “It’s all working out for the greater good.”
Fires destroyed St. Mary Baptist in Port Barre, and Greater Union Baptist Church and Mount Pleasant Baptist in Opelousas, between March 26 and April 4, authorities said. Holden Matthews, 21, son of a local sheriff’s deputy, was arrested on April 10 and faces charges of arson and hate crimes.
The GoFundMe page for rebuilding the churches was launched on April 10. But it wasn’t until after Monday’s Notre Dame fire in Paris, which quickly sparked pledges of millions from French billionaires, that the drive to help the churches took off.
A spokesperson for GoFundMe, in an email to HuffPost on Wednesday, credited Louisiana Twitter user Megan Romer for helping spur the St. Landry Parish fundraiser by tweeting a link to the page hours after the Notre Dame fire started.
“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,” Romer wrote, noting that the Catholic Church has ample funding of its own.
On Tuesday morning, journalist Yashar Ali, a HuffPost contributor, also shared a link to the church fundraising page on Twitter. He noted that rebuilding Notre Dame “will be well funded ... but these churches need your help.”
Ali asked others to donate and spread the word. Those who responded included Hillary Clinton, who shared a link on her Twitter page.
“As we hold Paris in our thoughts today, let’s also send some love to our neighbors in Louisiana,” the former presidential nominee said.
Ali said donations rose by $3,000 within 10 minutes of his tweet. By Wednesday morning, the amount had risen above $1.2 million.
“This is the top campaign globally on GoFundMe,” spokeswoman Aja Shepherd said, adding that donations have poured in from all 50 states. GoFundMe matched Ali’s $1,000 donation, Shepherd added.
“It shows that the church is not only fireproof, but it’s also faith proof,” Jack told Lafayette station KADN.
Meanwhile, donations to rebuild the Notre Dame Cathedral have also skyrocketed. Nearly $1 billion had been pledged as of Wednesday, French presidential cultural heritage envoy Stephane Bern said, according to the AP.
This article has been updated to include comments from a GoFundMe spokeswoman.