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A base community is a relatively autonomous Christian religious group that operates according to a particular model of community, worship, and study of the Bible. The concept of a base community is often associated with liberation theology. The 1968 Medellín, Colombia meeting of Latin American Council of Bishops played a major role in popularizing them.
Present in both rural and urban areas, the base community, organized often illiterate peasants and proletarians into self-reliant worshiping communities through the tutelage of a priest or local lay member. Because established Christian parishes with active priests were often miles away and because high level church officials rarely visited even their own parishes these "base communities" were often the only direct exposure to the church for people in rural areas or those for whom a "local" church may be miles away. Thus, the base community was significant in changing popular interpretations of Roman Catholicism for multiple reasons. Initially, their very structure encouraged discussion and solidarity within the community over submission to church authority and, as their very name suggests, made power seem to flow from the bottom or base upward. The influence of liberation theology meant that discussions within the church were oriented toward material conditions and issues of class interests. Through this process of consciousness raising, evangelizing turned into class consciousness.
Other Base Communities came into existence in the Eastern Bloc, but with a different theological emphasis. They did not subscribe to Liberation Theology, as they were being persecuted by Marxists themselves. One of the best-known groups was Hungarian priest György Bulányi's "Bokor" (Bush) movement after World War II, which sought to save the teachings of the Christian Church and resist the increasing persecution by the Communist Party. The movement's ideals were simple, namely to express Christian love in three ways: giving, service and non-violence. Bulányi was jailed for life by the Communist régime of Mátyás Rákosi, General Secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party, in 1952, and was amnestied in 1960. However, he was not allowed to work as a priest. He continued to start small base communities illegally, and wrote illegal samizdat articles.
They are in some ways similar to Western cell groups (small groups), a notable component of many Pentecostal and some Protestant churches. Base Christian communities believe in helping people whose lives have been destroyed. Over 120,000 new churches have been set up to help the poor. The Base Christian communities follow the word of God and stand by the poor, helping the helpless. The Base Christian communities work to fulfill Christ's purpose to proclaim good news to the poor, tell them of hope, and to remind all people that there is always someone loving them somewhere, and that they still have a chance in life.
A Base Christian community is a group of people who join together to study the Bible, and then act according to a social justice oriented form of Christianity especially popular among the third world and the poor.
- Montgomery, Tommie Sue (1995). Revolution in El Salvador: From Civil Strife to Civil Peace (Second ed.). Boulder, CO: Westview Press. p. 83.
- Weigel, G. The Final Revolution: The Resistance Church and the Collapse of Communism.