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Lafayette diocese donates $50k to Baptist churches destroyed by arson

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Lafayette, La., Nov 4, 2019 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- Catholic parishes throughout the Diocese of Lafayette in Louisiana raised more than $50,000 for three black Baptist churches that were the targets of arson attacks that have been characterized as hate crimes.

Bishop Douglas Deshotel of Lafayette presented the funds to the pastors of the affected Baptist churches on Thursday at the site of one of the former churches.

Pastor Harry Richard of Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas, Pastor Gerald Toussaint of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas, and Pastor Kyle Sylvester of St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre, accepted the donations on behalf of their congregations.

Between March 26 and April 4, each of these predominantly black Baptist churches in St. Landry Parish in Louisiana was destroyed by arson. KTA 5 News in Louisiana reported at the time that pastors of other local Baptist parishes began sleeping in their churches in order to fend off other possible attacks.

Police arrested 21-year-old Holden Matthews as a suspect in the fires, and he faces three felony arson charges and three federal hate crime charges, CBS News reported in June.

On Thursday, each affected church received a check for just more than $16,800 from the Diocese of Lafayette to go toward their rebuilding efforts. The funds add to the $2 million raised through an April GoFundMe account for the churches, The Acadiana Advocate reported.

“Evil brings opportunities for good, and this is a good way to do that,” Deshotel said.

Rev. Harry Richard said he is looking forward to rebuilding the church for his congregation, which is now using a temporary space for worship.

“When that was taken away from us, not only did it create a fire in our building, but it created a fire in our lives. That fire seems to be burning until we get back to our home,” Richard said, according to The Advocate.

“But the love that Bishop Deshotel and the rest of the community has shown has been a river of loving water that is helping put out the fire in our lives.”

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