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Donations for burned black churches up after Notre Dame fire

FILE - In this April 4, 2019 file photo, firefighters and fire investigators respond to a fire at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church, in Opelousas, La. Authorities have arrested a person in connection with suspicious fires at three historic black churches in southern Louisiana, a federal prosecutor said. The suspect was in state custody, U.S. Attorney David C. Joseph announced late Wednesday, April 10 in a news release labeling the fires “despicable acts.” (Leslie Westbrook/The Advocate via AP, File)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A crowdfunding campaign for three African American churches in Louisiana recently gutted by arson was climbing 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 Rev. Freddie Jack, president of the Seventh District Missionary Baptist Association, said of the fundraising campaign in a telephone interview 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 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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