By HENRI ROLLET
ALGERIA is a French country, occupied for 128 years, where four to five generations and more than a million French people live.
They have cultivated the country, established its industry, greatly increased its level of health and its population, educated its leaders, respected and encouraged its Mohammedan religion.
In order to safeguard the future of the large Arab majority in terms of a middle line between the status quo insisted on by the extreme Right and the pure and simple abandonment of these people supported by the Communists, there are a great many canvassed solutions: a special statute of the loi-cadre, a federal state, partition proposed by the friends of Mendes-France.
With a prolongation of the conflict, new problems are arising. The most serious is that of the means used for repression, which have greatly worried Catholic consciences. It should be remembered that never in her history has France abandoned a French population of 1,200,000, of whom 95 per cent. are small proprietors or even working-class people who cannot emigrate.
What they have seen happen in Morocco and in Tunisia is no encouragement to them to trust the Arabs. Nor can the Republican regime, already much weakened, stand further loss of prestige. Foreign interventions, at the moment when the value of the Sahara is Seen to be very great, appear to Frenchmen like an attempt to supplant French dominion.
Opinion in France is deeply divided over Algeria and public attention is given entirely to it, forgetful of other great outstanding problems; the Common Market. Summit Conference, future economic difficulties, and the modification of the Constitution.
Moreover, this division of opinion is growing and, in doing so, is forcing people to extreme views, a point that has been made clear during recent elections. Furthermore, terrorism in the capital increases the nervousness of French opinion.
There is no single Catholic reaction. Two opposed views stand out.
For Catholics who believe in order and in French greatness, the intervention of Catholic journals and still more of priests who never cease denouncing French mistakes, and yet never speak of the crimes of the fellaheen in Algeria, causes scandal.
Many Catholics who would willingly agree to reforms and to condemn certain errors of the colons or of the administration, cannot accept this perpetual and one-sided criticism. They become increasingly angry with journals, lay people and priests, who support this view.
Their increasing exasperation leads them to violent gestures: the destruction of Ternoignage Chretien, the abduction of its Editor, odious treatment inflicted on the parish priest of Firminy and the like.
At the same time, they lose sight of the difficulties of pacification, the Arab demands, the attitude of United Nations, the progress that may be made through both means of pacification and the ultimate collaboration between two peoples.
"Minority" Catholics, concerned above all with justice, liberty and democracy. are awkwardly placed for putting forward a solution compatible with their principles and acceptable to public opinion. Above all, they insist on conversations, contacts and Mohammedan rights. They feel keenly the consequences of repression, and the intolerance of those who are opposed to them, unceasingly denouncing their attitude and persuaded that time works against France. The so-called question of torture has polarized their feelings and claims.
In such a climate, one growing ever more passionate, the measured teachings of the Hierarchy, its appeals to charity, its condemnation of violence, have not been sufficiently attended to.
Everyone is seeking to insist on what specially interests him while leaving aside everything else.The attitude of Mgr. Duval, the Archbishop of Algiers, so pre-occupied with the missionary action of the Church in Kabylia, where a number of Catholics are to be found. and also with the Arabs among whom, for the first time, there are a few conversions — and also with Christian children, the issue of mixed marriages — is not understood in the capital, neither by those who support the status quo nor among those who want peace at any price. For them the attitude of the Algerian Hierarchy is situated on too high a spiritual plane.
The continuation of the conflict makes these diverse feelings deeper and makes harder the task of those who really want Christian peace through the establishment of a true, just settlement, respecting acquired rights as well as legitimate claims.