Several Black churches torched in Louisiana
Carol Ozemhoya | OW Contributor | 4/9/2019, 2:49 p.m.
It is still unclear whom or what is responsible for the burning of three historically Black Louisiana churches in 10 days. It will take investigators time to sift through what evidence remains to determine if the blazes were intentionally set and if they are connected, reports CNN.
As they do, residents and worshipers in the Louisiana parish where all three fires occurred are withholding judgment about what may have caused them, even as officials say they contained "suspicious elements" and the episodes evoke recollections of past acts of hate against Black churches. “I feel our district was being targeted because all three of the churches were in our district,” Pastor Freddie Jack, the Seventh District Missionary Baptist Association President told CNN's Don Lemon Monday. “At first we thought it might have been an electrical problem but then when the second church ... burning occurred I realized it was our sister church ... then two days later the third occurred so at least me, (it) made me think that we're being targeted.”
All three churches were in St. Landry Parish. St. Mary Baptist Church, in Port Barre, burned on March 26, followed by Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas on April 2 and two days later, Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in the same town. Officials are also investigating a fourth, smaller fire on March 31 at the predominantly White Vivian United Pentecostal Church in Caddo Parish more than 200 miles north of St. Landry. The blaze was intentionally set. St. Landry Parish is nearly 42 percent Black. Opelousas is 75 percent Black. The city's mayor, Julius Alsandor, called the church burnings “hideous."
"The relevance and the impact on the people in the surrounding communities and especially the congregation of each of these churches, it's hurtful and there may be some fear that is being exhibited by those who are a part of the three churches,” he said.
Hurt, fear and confusion. That's all the congregants are left with for now.
“We don't know why, we don't know when, we don't know who,” Rev. Gerald Toussaint, who leads the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, told CNN affiliate KATC. “We will let the authorities handle that, but we just know a higher power and a higher authority who can bring this thing to fruition.” In an appeal for the public’s help, Gov. John Bel Edwards said he has directed the State Fire Marshal as well as local and federal authorities to “aggressively investigative” the fires.
“Churches are sacred places, and no one should fear for their safety in their house of worship,” he said. “And no one should be concerned that their house of worship would be destroyed. Right now, there are more questions than answers, but hopefully the investigation will yield information we can share with the public in short order.”
The FBI and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are assisting in the investigations. And as they look for answers, congregants wait. “Something is not right, something isn't right but God has the last word,” Ethel Thomas, a member of Mount Pleasant told KATC. “We're going to keep on keeping on.”