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The Paris Basis is a group of principles guiding the relationships between individual YMCAs.
Ninety-nine YMCA leaders of individual YMCAs from Europe and North America met for the first time prior to the 1855 Paris World Exposition to discuss the possibility of joining together in a federation enhance co-operation amongst individual YMCA societies. This meeting resulted in the Paris Basis which is still a guiding principle of the organization today.
Two themes resonated during the council:
- the need to respect the local autonomy of YMCA societies and
- the dogma that Christian churches are united and the YMCA is a way of manifesting that unity. (Muukkonen, 2002:85)
Respect of Local Autonomy
The need for the respect of local automony is expressed in the preamble:
The Committee has never upheld the opinion that all the Associations should adhere to the same forms and methods; on the contrary, it fully recognizes the necessity of an individual growth based on the local conditions and the influences of varying circumstances.
Unity of Churches
The main principle of the Paris Basis is expressed:
The Young Men's Christian Associations seek to unite those young men who, regarding Jesus Christ as their God and Saviour, according to the Holy Scriptures, desire to be his disciples in their faith and in their life and to associate their efforts for the extension of His Kingdom amongst young men.
The main principle of the Paris Basis is often stated as the entire basis and the preamble and other articles are omitted.
There were are two versions of the Paris Basis, one in French and one in English. It is thought that the French version is the more accurate representation of the agreement reached and that the English version was a result of a later transcription of notes after the meeting. Some adjustments were made to the English version to align it with the French version in 1955. In the French version the last two words of the main principle are "jeunes gens" which more accurately translates as "young people" rather than young men (although all participants in YMCAs at the time were male). (Muukkonen, 2002:90).