The Call of Conscience
French Protestant Responses to the Algerian War, 1954-1962
Publication Year: 1998
Initially, when the government in Paris responded with force to the November 1, 1954 insurrection of Algerian nationalists, French public opinion offered all but unanimous support. Then it was revealed that hundreds of thousands of Muslims were herded into resettlement camps in Algeria; that Algerians suspected of nationalist sympathies were imprisoned in France; that conscientious objectors were denied their rights; and that a resolution to the conflict, either by force or by peaceful methods, was not forthcoming. When it was proven that the army was guilty of abuses, members of the Protestant minority protested and then laboured to educate their own communities as well as the public at large to the moral and spiritual perils of these actions.
Based on painstaking research and solid scholarship, The Call of Conscience: French Protestant Responses to the Algeria War, 1954-1962 reveals a rich portrait of the protest.
Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press
Series: Editions SR
CHRONOLOGY OF EVENTS
A generation after it ended, the Algerian war (1954-62) has produced a substantial body of writing, some of it polemical, some of it journalistic, much of it sober and reflective.1 The present work explores the responses to the war by members of the French Protestant community on both sides of the Mediterranean...
Representing about two percent of the population since the Revolution which granted them their emancipation, France's Protestants have consistently played a disproportionate role in their nation's political, economic and cultural life. The middle years of the nineteenth century (1830-1880) were a kind of Golden Age in French Protestantism...
I. ALGERIA 1830-1954: A COLONY IN ALL BUT NAME
The French expedition against Algiers in 1830 which led a generation later to the conquest of what the invaders named Algeria was motivated by a series of domestic and foreign policy problems. Jewish merchants in Algiers owed money to metropolitan French interests; and the dey of Algiers whose powers derived from the Ottoman Sultan...
II. GOVERNOR JACQUES SOUSTELLE: THE TRIBULATIONS OF A JACOBIN PROCONSUL (1955-56)
The uprising which triggered the eight-year-long Algerian conflict began on 1 November 1954 in two key areas: the hilly Kabyle terrain to the east of Algiers and the Aures mountain range south of Constantine. The rebels, under the overall command of an Armée de Liberation Nationale (ALN), were at most 3,000. The French army...
III. 1956—MOBILIZING AGAINST MOLLET: THE RESTIVENESS OF THE PROTESTANT LEFT
Early in January 1956, following elections to the National Assembly, the Faure government gave way to a coalition known as the National Front, led by a new prime minister, the Socialist Guy Mollet. A month into his mandate, on 6 February, a date full of ominous resonance for French leftists (because of the failed fascist putsch...
IV. 1957—FULLY ENGAGED: PROTESTANTS TAKE SIDES IN THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS
At the beginning of 1957, the Protestant commentator Paul Adeline scolded Premier Mollet for a series of blunders which had made the search for peace harder to undertake: the premier had capitulated to the mob on 6 February 1956; he had thrown away a chance to accept Moroccan and Tunisian mediation in the conflict...
V. 1958: PROTESTANT REACTIONS TO THE 13 MAI AND THE COMING OF DE GAULLE
On 11 January 1958, the internationalization of the Algerian conflict came a step closer when a French army patrol was attacked near the Tunisian border. Fourteen French soldiers were killed and five more taken prisoner. Paris charged Tunis with complicity in the attack and demanded the immediate return of the captives...
VI. 1959—COMING TO THE RESCUE: PROTESTANT RELIEF FOR UPROOTED MUSLIMS
As a result of the sweeping victory of his supporters in the legislative vote of the fall of 1958 and his own election as president in December, Charles de Gaulle was well placed at the beginning of 1959 to deal with the Algerian imbroglio which his own ambiguous pronouncements since the 13 May had done nothing to resolve...
VII. 1960: THE MORAL BALANCE TILTS TO PEACE
The anger and frustration felt by Protestant partisans of French Algeria at de Gaulle's 16 September speech was shared not only by the usual right-wing colons but also by certain French army units doing battle with the FLN. In January 1960, a coalition of these disgruntled groups rebelled, challenging not only de Gaulle but...
VIII. 1961: PUTTING PEACEMAKERS TO THE TEST
On the eve of the referendum, two team-workers at the Clos Salembier hostel in Algiers, Denise Duboscq and Pierrette Faivre, wrote to Jacques Beaumont and the CIMADE executive in Paris.1 They had stayed inside their quarters during the December rioting in their district, they reported, doing their best to maintain a strictly neutral...
IX. 1962: THE SPIRITUAL COST OF A PROBLEMATIC PEACE
In January 1962, nine months after fleeing France to escape arrest, Jacques Soustelle finished L'espérance trahie, a powerful polemic that served both as apologia for the ex-governor's consistent defense of French Algeria and indictment of what he saw as Charles de Gaulle's betrayal of the promise made to those who had brought...
Most of the Protestants who spoke, wrote, or committed themselves to action in response to the Algerian crisis were pratiquants or croyants, inspired by deep religious conviction. On the other hand, protestants d'origine who were no longer formal believers in (or observers of) the faith were motivated to become involved in the conflict...
Jacques Beaumont continued to serve as secretary-general of CIMADE until March 1968, urging the Protestant relief organization towards new commitments throughout the developing world as well as towards a fuller expression of its ecumenical potential. At the executive meeting which accepted Beaumont's resignation...