After Notre Dame fire, $1 million raised for burned black churches in Louisiana

As the attention of the world focused on the fire-ravaged Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, a crowdfunding campaign for three historically black churches in Louisiana recently gutted by arson reached more than $1 million on Wednesday and continued to climb.

Politicians, activists and journalists rallied on social media to spread the word of a GoFundMe campaign for the three small houses of worship.

"As we hold Paris in our hearts today, let's also send some love to our neighbors in Louisiana," a tweet from Hillary Clinton read.

Freelance journalist Yashar Ali, with 395,000 followers, struck a similar tone, tweeting that the Notre Dame restoration "will be well funded" and urging support for the Louisiana churches.

“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,” Ali wrote on Tuesday.

"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 with the Associated Press. 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 $1.2 million Wednesday morning, 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.

The funding will be used to help rebuild the sanctuaries and purchase items lost in the fire, including pews, sound systems and musical instruments, according to the GoFundMe page.

This story was reported from Los Angeles. The Associated Press contributed.