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Historical Dictionary

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TÉMOIGNAGE CHRÉTIEN

Together with Esprit, the Christian newspaper Témoignage Chrétien (Christian Witness) was one of the rare French papers to criticize the war in Indochina and recognize the reality of Vietnamese nationalism. Having emerged clandestinely during World War II and taken a firm stance against Nazism, the hostility of Témoignage Chrétien to the Indochina War and its critique of the colonial project had an important impact on its readers, mainly “progressive” Christians, who looked to it for guidance on major issues of the day. Nowhere was this better seen than in the paper’s decision to publish a graphic description and indictment of the French army’s use of torture in Indochina, written by Jacques Chegaray on 29 July 1949 (and rejected by his paper, L’Aube). It was followed by the publication of a series of essays by Paul Mus in late 1949 and early 1950. In them, this specialist of Asia from the École française d’Extrême-Orient and head of the Colonial Academy (École coloniale), condemned the French use of torture and took the French to task for failing to see the humanity of the Vietnamese and the historical reality of nationalism. The French right was outraged by Témoignage Chrétien’s criticism. Chegaray’s piece triggered a formal investigation into the charges of torture in Indochina, some of which were confirmed. In 1957, as the French army resorted to torture to shut down Algerian nationalists in Algiers, Témoignage Chrétien renewed its opposition to colonial wars. However, unlike Esprit, intellectuals working in Témoignage Chrétien, such as Robert Barrat and Robert de Montvalon, still believed in a certain idea of colonial humanism and sometimes favored colonial reform and liberalism over outright decolonization. See also CAM LY, MASSACRE; HÉRAULT, MASSACRE; JULES ROY.