The three Baptist churches, St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre, Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas, were targeted over a 10-day span, from March 26-April 4.
On April 9, when there still wasn’t a clear motive for the fires, Watson tweeted how he would follow the situation closely.
After monitoring the situation for a couple days, he decided to take action, reaching out to the pastors of the three churches, as well as the head of the Seventh District Missionary Baptist Association, Pastor Freddie Jack.
“In speaking with these pastors I am in awe and inspired by their faith and courage, comforting their congregations and family members,” Watson told The Advocate. “Through sadness and shock they spoke of forgiveness for the arsonist and grace for tomorrow. Most importantly they spoke of being overwhelmed by support from people of goodwill and all religions from around the country. And they were humbled by what God has already done through this series of events.”
He is currently leading by example and called upon others to join him in supporting the rebuilding efforts, tweeting out a GoFundMe and address for donations.
Holden Matthews, the 21-year-old son of a local sheriff’s deputy, was arrested on Wednesday on three counts of simple arson of a religious building.
Watson says he won’t comment on whether or not Matthews is guilty until legal proceedings are completed.
“While I reserve judgement on the man arrested for this crime until proven guilty, the fact that black churches were burned to the ground is a reminder of the fear and pain so many communities have repeatedly experienced since emancipation,” Watson said. “This trauma resides deep within all of us, black and white, in America.”
The former 15-year NFL veteran tweeted how he wants the community, both black and white to come together, as brothers and sisters.
Watson retired from the Saints after their playoff run in January and currently lives in Louisiana with his wife, Kirsten, a Baton Rouge native.
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