The Public Helps Rebuild Historically Black Churches Burned by Arson

churchRecently, three historically black churches in Louisiana that were destroyed by fire in racially motivated arson attacks. Thanks to an outpouring of donations from the public via a GoFundMe campaign that raised over $2 million. All three churches destroyed in the fire will try to rebuild in a way that protects them better from similar future arson attacks.

Mount Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church in Opelousas became the third historically black church over 100 years old to burn down in St. Landry Parish, in a span of 10 days earlier this month. St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre was the first reported church fire on March 26 while Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas went up in flames a week later.

The leaders of the churches were hesitant about online fundraising because of potential scamming. Once they were satisfied that they would be able to properly distinguish themselves in their campaign and it began getting media attention, however, they felt better about upgrading their fundraising efforts with online technology.

High-profile figures like Hillary Clinton and Benjamin Watson, a former player for the Saints and Baltimore Ravens asked the public to remember them too when more than $700 million was quickly raised to restore the famed Notre Dame cathedral in France that was damaged in a fire on April 15. She tweeted:

As we hold Paris in our thoughts today, let’s also send some love to our neighbors in Louisiana. Three historically black churches have burned in recent weeks, charring buildings and scattering communities. Not only do we want to support the Cathedral in Paris, but we also want to remember three black churches in the south.

Included with tweets from Clinton was the link to the GoFundMe campaign. Prior to Watson and Clinton’s support, the campaign struggled to raise the $1.8 million needed to restore the three churches. Now, with the help of the public, the funds have reached $2 million.

Unlike the Notre-Dame fire, the St. Landry churches were purposefully set on fire on March 26, April 2, and April 4. Holden Matthews is charged with burning down all three southern Louisiana churches. He is the 21-year-old son of a sheriff’s deputy who is reportedly attracted to Satanism and black metal. Black metal is a subgenre of heavy metal music that usually features satanic, paganistic and anti-Christian themes.

Taylor Thibodeaux, an acquaintance of Matthews who identifies as a Satanist, said she met him through mutual friends on social media. After learning that Thibodeaux was into Satanism, Matthews became obsessed. The 23-year-old alleged she was forced to avoid him because he was fanatical about the practice. The times they spent together, which were few, Thibodeaux claimed Matthews used racial slurs and made jokes about dead babies and black people. She added:

We were supposed to go on a date, but, for me, he didn’t seem right. The infatuation he had toward me and my religion just threw me off.

Thibodeaux called the church burnings Matthews is accused of carrying out “absolutely wrong” and argued that Satanism is about self-reflection and loving yourself, not burning down houses of worship. Matthews is charged with three counts of simple arson on religious buildings with each carrying a prison sentence of up to 15 years.

Pastors of the vandalized churches are hopeful due to the outpouring of support and love they have received. The public has blown their minds by raising over and above the initial request. This collective effort confirms how beloved the church still is. Millions trust GoFundMe as the number one online fundraising expert. This is why more people use GoFundMe than any other platform—and have raised more money than anywhere else.

While the St. Landry churches were not architecturally renowned throughout the world, in their own communities they were revered as centers of community, worship, spirituality, and decades of family history. That they were reduced to ash is no less tragic than if Notre-Dame itself had been completely destroyed.

By Cherese Jackson (Virginia)

Sources:

Christian Post: Black churches torched in arson attack to rebuild in hope after public donates more than $2M
AD: Notre-Dame Inspires an Outpouring of Donations for Burned Churches in Louisiana
GoFundMe: How It Works

Image Credits:

Top Image Courtesy of Butterbits’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inline Image Courtesy of Derek Bridge’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Featured Image Courtesy of Anthony Posey’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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