With the world’s gaze turned toward the heartbreaking scenes in Paris, one journalist has sought to draw attention to three Louisiana churches that were recently subjected to viscous arson attacks. New York Magazine and HuffPost contributor, Yashar Ali, announced this week that he is donating $1,000 of his own funds “to help these historical churches rebuild.”
“The rebuild of Notre Dame will be well funded,” Ali tweeted. “In the past month, three historically black churches in Louisiana were destroyed by a racist arsonist. He has been charged with hate crimes, but these churches need your help. Please join me in donating.”
Since he posted a link to the GoFundMe, the fundraising campaign has gone from strength to strength. At the time of print, the total was a staggering $1.2 million. One generous individual even donated some $9,000, without revealing their identity.
Along with a sizeable sum of cash, thousands of well-wishes and prayers have been pouring into the page, many from people who don’t even believe in God.
“I am not religious, but for the people that are, these churches are important,” one person wrote.
“For my brothers and sisters in Christ to help rebuild your sanctuaries for worship. Love and prayers from Atlanta, Georgia,” another added.
Another commenter simply declared, “We shall overcome.”
Who is the suspect?
Prosecutors announced Wednesday that suspect Holden Matthews, 21, the son of a local sheriff deputy, will be charged with hate crimes. The case judge also denied the man his bond request due to a “substantial amount of evidence” against him, according to the BBC.
Matthews will be held in custody because he presents “an immediate risk to public safety,” noted Louisiana Fire Marshal Butch Browning. “In my mind, I felt another fire was imminent.”
All three fires involved gallons of gasoline and occurred around Opelousas, 60 miles west of Baton Rouge.
Several leading public figures have shared Ali’s GoFundMe page, including Hillary Clinton, CNN anchor Jake Tapper and recently retired NFL tight end Benjamin Watson.
“The outpouring of love and support from around the country and the world has been amazing!” Watson tweeted Wednesday.
“We all desire that these houses of worship be rebuilt but most importantly we pray that the scourge of racism be erased, wounds be healed and unity be pursued,” he continued. “Thank you for caring. Thank you.”