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Historical Dictionary

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CHRISTIANS AND FRENCH OPPOSITION TO THE WAR

The Indochina War divided French Christians deeply. If conservative Catholics associated with the center right Mouvement républicain populaire tended to support the French war in Indochina on nationalist and anti-communist grounds, more liberal-minded French Catholics increasingly objected to the war on anti-colonialist and moral grounds. The rift came into the open in 1949, when the highly influential Christian paper, Témoignage Chrétien, published Jacques Chegaray’s denunciation of the French army’s use of torture, followed by protestant Paul Mus’s essays calling on the French to take Vietnamese nationalist demands seriously, and to end what he saw as a senseless colonial war. In February 1950, like-minded Christian opponents of the war organized an informational conference on the Indochina War at Issy-les-Moulineaux. This historic meeting brought together Catholic groups such as the Jeune république, Christianisme social, La vie nouvelle, and members of the Union des chrétiens progressistes such as the Catholic Jean Chesneaux and Joseph Robert, a well-known priest from the left-wing Catholic Mission ouvrière. This debate produced a resolution calling on the 4th Republic to reach a negotiated settlement of the war and supported those who “refused to work for the war”, meaning communist workers and dockers who were opposed to loading war material on boats headed to Indochina. The Issy meeting was significant in that it opened the way for French Chrétiens progressistes to collaborate increasingly with the working class allied with the French Communist Party and contributed to an emerging sense of public opposition to the Indochina War. In early June 1954, Le Monde published an anti-war Catholic text calling upon the government not to fail in its efforts at the Geneva Conference to find a peaceful end to the war, insisting that the Indochina conflict could not be considered to constitute a “just war”. See also CATHOLICS, EXODUS FROM NORTH; CATHOLICS IN VIETNAM AND THE WAR; LE HUU TU; PUBLIC OPINION; VATICAN.