Notre-Dame Fire Raises Awareness for Destroyed Churches in U.S.

A fire broke out in the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris, France on April 15, 2019. The building’s spire and a section of the roof collapsed before firefighters were able to extinguish the flames, nine hours after it began burning. Nobody was killed in the event. Most of the cathedral remained intact, and many items of cultural or religious significance were successfully protected from harm.

As of April 18, 2019, The Associated Press reported that Paris police believed the source of the fire to be from an electrical short-circuit, potentially connected to renovation work being done on the 850-year-old cathedral. The rector of the Catholic parish has received permission from City Hall to construct a temporary place of worship near Notre-Dame, as it is expected to be closed to the public for years while undergoing repairs.

With the cathedral already drawing donations from around the world to rebuild, BBC News noted a rise in support on social media for three historically black churches in Louisiana that were destroyed in arson attacks earlier this year. The churches — St. Mary Baptist Church, the Greater Union Baptist Church and the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church — are all part of the St. Landry Parish. The parish was the site of the Opelousas Massacre in 1868, which the Smithsonian Institution refers to as “the deadliest instance of racial violence during the Reconstruction period.”

Between late March and April in 2019, all three churches were set on fire. A suspect has been arrested and is being charged with hate crimes. The Seventh District Baptist Association set up a crowdfunding page to raise money for reconstruction of the churches and the replacement of items that were destroyed. The goal was to raise $1.8 million. Before the Notre-Dame fire, they had only reached less than $100,000. But shortly after the fire in Paris, the fundraiser was shared on social media with the suggestion that, since Notre-Dame was attracting support from a wide range of wealthy donors, people who were interested in rebuilding a church might consider donating to the St. Landry Parish. BBC News credits Louisiana resident Megan Romer with spreading this idea. By the end of the day on April 17, 2019, the parish’s funding goal had been reached. However, the campaign is still active and taking donations.

Trump Vetoes Resolution to End U.S. Military Involvement in Yemen

President Trump vetoed a congressional resolution to end U.S. military involvement in the war in Yemen on April 16, 2019. The resolution was a bipartisan measure under the War Powers Act that The New York Times said was passed partially to reproach Trump’s continued support for Saudi Arabia, as the nation is heavily involved in the conflict. The war has gone on for four years now.

In February 2019, the United Nations reported that a minimum of 7,025 civilians had been killed and 11,148 injured since March 2015. In a briefing to the UN Security Council, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock stated that, “About 80 percent of the population [in Yemen] – 24 million people – need humanitarian assistance and protection.”

The New York Times quoted Trump as saying that he did not sign the resolution because “We cannot end the conflict in Yemen through political documents. Peace in Yemen requires a negotiated settlement.”

U.S. Raises New Sanctions Against Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela

On April 17, 2019 the Trump administration announced a series of new sanctions and restrictions on Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

The Associated Press explained that Cuba is likely to be the most severely affected, as the country is currently facing an economic crisis and supply shortages. Among the policy changes is a new cap on the amount of money that U.S. families can send to relatives in Cuba, after the previous remittance limit was lifted by the Obama administration.

For Venezuela, the U.S. is imposing sanctions against the Central Bank with the goal of improving the reliability of credit and debit card use, as well as increasing the pressure on President Nicolás Maduro.

The Trump administration is also cracking down on Nicaragua’s Bancorp, a move that the U.S. Department of the Treasury claimed, “targets corrupt financial operations and Ortega regime support networks.”