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Base Communities

CHRIST & NEIGHBOR

By John C. Cort | July August 1986

Communidades de base is the Spanish phrase for something that has been hailed as a new and revolutionary movement in the church. The phrase is usually translated “base communities,” although “grass-roots communities” might be closer to the meaning.

Thousands of them have been created in Latin America and some people see them, with joy or fear, as a rival to the institutional Church. Others, as in Brazil, where the institutional Church created most of them, see them as a means by which the institutional Church can become the vital, dynamic force Jesus wants it to be.

A base community consists of a small group of people who meet regularly, usually in someone’s home, to study the Bible and their own living, working situation and consider how they can bring the latter into conformity with the former.

The unpronounceable word “conscientization” and Paolo Freire’s concept, “pedagogy of the oppressed,” have been associated with this movement. Conscientization is a process by which peo­ple become aware — or conscious — of the situa­tion in which they live and work (or don’t work), of those forces and influences that have created that situation, and, ideally, of the measures neces­sary to change that situation, if change is called for. Which it usually is.

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