Police say they have arrested a suspect in connection with three fires in Louisiana. The fires gutted three black churches. Holden Matthews, the son of a deputy, was arrested and charged with three counts of simple arson of a religious building, CBS News reported. Church and parish officials have been careful not to assume the fires were racially motivated. The fires happened within 10 days at rural, African American churches fronting small cemeteries.

Black churches destroyed by fires see surge in donations after Notre Dame blaze

Donations to finance the rebuilding of Notre Dame de Paris have poured in since the 865-year-old cathedral was devastated by fire Monday.

Nearly $1 billion has been pledged from France’s wealthy citizens and from ordinary people around the world.

That generosity has not been lost on Americans. Efforts are now growing to raise funds for three black churches in Louisiana that were recently destroyed by fire.

The fires occurred on March 26, April 2 and April 4 in St. Landry Parish, north of Lafayette. The first fire torched St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre. Days later, Greater Union Baptist Church and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas were burned. Each was more than 100 years old, with mostly African American congregations.

» Deputy reportedly turns son in as suspect in 'suspicious' fires at 3 black churches

The crowdfunding campaign received more than $850,000 Tuesday, after it was shared on social media by Hillary Clinton, journalist Yashar Ali and CNN’s Jake Tapper, among others. As of Wednesday morning, the fund had $1,118,800 of its $1.8 million goal. Many users noted that while hundreds of millions of euros had been pledged to rebuild the renowned cathedral, the small churches in Louisiana were still struggling, the New York Times reported.

 

The host of the campaign is the Seventh District Baptist Association, a 149-year-old nonprofit religious organization. The group said on its GoFundMe page it is working with the governor of Louisiana, local leaders, elected officials, the affected churches and their pastors, other faith organizations and the community “to ensure 100% of all funds raised will be evenly distributed to the three churches affected.”

» Officials say evidence points to church fire suspect

“We have history right here in our own backyards. Let's do more to protect the history of historical black churches that are targeted by hate,” Kris Rixon wrote on the fundraising page.

Holden Matthews — the son of a local sheriff's deputy — was arrested after turning himself in. The 21-year-old entered a not guilty plea Monday via video conference from the St. Landry Parish jail, as prosecutors added new charges declaring the arsons a hate crime, the New York Times reported.

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