OPELOUSAS, La. (AP)—Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards sounded themes of gratitude, resilience and compassion during a visit to a church building that was rebuilt after being destroyed by an arsonist three years ago.
Edwards visited Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church in St. Landry Parish on Thursday, area news outlets reported. Mt. Pleasant was one of three churches with predominantly black congregations that were burned in 2019. The arsonist, Holden Matthews, was convicted of federal and state hate crimes, arson and other charges, and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
An online fundraising effort raised money to rebuild the churches.
Edwards said the rebuilding efforts unified and uplifted the community.
“It is uplifting for me as well, when we came over here in 2019 people were really down. They had just been shocked,” Edwards said. “But they were pretty quick to understand that the church is a building but the church really is the people. And the people didn’t go anywhere, they’re still here.”
Edwards also struck a compassionate tone when talking about Matthews.
“We need to pray for the arsonist because obviously he was misguided,” Edwards said. “The idea that he would set fire to churches, to places of worship and deprive all of those parishioners of their churches simply to try and impress people from the Internet, it shows how lost that individual was.”
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