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A Strategic Framework for Forming Basic Ecclesial Communities

Fr. Amado Picardal, CSsR, STD

How can we form Basic Ecclesial Communities? There are many ways of building BECs. This diversity is influenced by local situation, the program orientation and the availability of personnel. What may be effective in the rural area may not be appropriate in the urban area. However, in spite of the diversity there are some means and strategic framework that may be helpful to all.
 
 

A. Prerequisites

1. The formation of BECs should be adopted as a pastoral program of the parish and diocese.

Since the formation of BECs is a means of renewing the Church, it has to be a program of the local Church - at the parochial and diocesan level. If it is not a parish program, the legitimacy of BECs may be questioned and it may be difficult to get the people involved. The BECs that may be formed can easily be isolated and there can be tension with the parish priest and other groups in the parish. Thus, it will be difficult for the BECs to prosper.

Even if it is a parish program, if it is not a diocesan program there will be problems with continuity and sustainability. The next parish priest may not be interested in forming BECs as the previous one. If BEC formation is a diocesan thrust and the pastoral priority there is no danger that the BECs will be weakened due to reassignment of parish priests.

The active support of the bishop and the clergy is therefore necessary in the formation of BECs. Without their initiative and support the formation of BECs will be in vain. The bishop promotes the formation of BECs among his clergy and facilitates the process of its acceptance as a pastoral strategy for renewing and revitalizing the diocese. Each parish priest is responsible for initiating the formation of BECs in his parish.

The various diocesan commissions and structures should eventually be geared towards supporting the formation of BECs:

Worship/Liturgical Commission - may assist in the training of lay liturgical leaders and providing liturgical materials that can be used in the BECs.

Education/Catechetical Commission - may assist in providing materials and modules for evangelization seminars and bible-reflections. They may also help in training the catechists in the BECs .

Social Action/Service Commission - may provide support (technical, financial) for socio-economic activities and projects of the BECs (e.g. cooperatives, IGP). They may also provide support for BECs as they struggle for justice, peace and the integrity of creation.

2. The Need for a BEC Formation Team

The parish priest cannot form the BECs by himself. He needs the help of others. He needs a parish formation team. This team will do the hard work of building the BECs. This team may be composed of full time lay pastoral workers. Religious sisters should also be invited to join the team. They need to be trained and financed. Funding the team may be a problem. Part of the income of the parish may be allocated for BEC formation. If the parish is very poor the parish priest can also apply for outside funding. The formation team has to be trained for evangelizing and organizing.

The parish formation team should have a regular meeting for planning, reporting, evaluation. The parish priest should attend these meetings. There should also be time for staff development: e.g. recollection, recreation and study.

If a diocesan mission team or formation team is to be formed its primary task is not to organize the BECs in all the parishes. Rather, the diocesan team should help in the training of the Parish Formation Teams.

There are various programs and institutions that can help in the formation of BECs. Among these are the BEC service office, BCC-CO, LUMKO, Redemptorist Mission Teams, Daughters of Charity BEC Teams, the PLMP, etc. These various groups can help in the initial process of building BECs. They can also help train the parish formation team and the leaders of the BECs. However, one should bear in mind that they are transient. They may help clear the ground and sow the seed but they cannot stay to nurture the plant and reap the harvest. If the parish priest invite any of these groups, he should actively be involved in the whole process.

In large dioceses, several programs or groups can work simultaneously in various parishes to help build BECs (ex: BEC Kriska, BCC-CO, Redemptorist Mission Team, etc). There is room in the diocese for all these groups. Competition and conflict can be avoided by recognizing that these programs and groups are at the service of the local Church. No group can claim a monopoly or franchise to BEC building. Coordination at the diocesan level is necessary. These groups can be represented in a diocesan BEC commission.

3. Making a Contextual Analysis and General Plan

Anyone who wishes to build BECs must know the context. This means knowing the local geography, demography, history, social structures and institutions, economic system, political terrain, culture and religious situation. The context will influence the kind of BECs that will be formed, the appropriate strategy or approaches that will be used in building them, the content or message of evangelization, the kind of transformation that can be hoped for.

In doing contextual analysis the following questions need to be answered:

1. Geographical

What is the geographical location and terrain of the parish? Is it in the plain, in the mountains or along the coastline? Is it in the rural area or in the urban? How does geography affect the life of the people?

2. Demography

What is the population of the parish? What is the age distribution? What is the population density?

3. Social Organization

What kind of communities are existing? Rural communities? Urban neighborhood communities? Where are they located ? (Slums, subdivisions, housing). What are the dynamics of these communities? (homogeneous, heterogeneous, etc) What are the patterns and level of interaction? How strong is the family orientation? Does the family or clan affect the way the community is organized?

4. Economic

What is the economic system and situation ? How is the economic life organized? What do they live on? (farming, fishing, manufacturing, services, etc.). Who owns the means of production? What are the patterns of injustice and exploitation? What is the extent of poverty? What are the major economic problems and issues?

5. Political

Who wields power and authority? How is authority exercised? What are the competing political forces? What are the major political problems or issues?

6. Culture

What is the ethnic-linguistic composition? What are the dominant cultural values, patterns of thought and behavior, patterns of expression, symbols? How dominant are the traditional cultural values and practices? What is the extent of the influence of modern western values?

7. Religious

What are the various religious denominations in the locality? (How many percent Catholics and other religious groups? ) What is the state of the parish? How many percent are active and practicing? What are the religious activities and how is the level of attendance and participation? What are the major problems and challenges?

8. Rhythm of Life

What is the rhythm of life of the people? When do they wake up, work, rest and recreate, play, gather together, celebrate, etc.?

There are many ways of data-gathering: survey, interviews, observation, participatory research, etc. For a deeper understanding of the place and the people, it is desirable that those who gather data may be immersed and integrated in the life of the people.

Once there is sufficient data, a general plan can be drawn up. Objectives and goals may be set and the means determined. There must be a common vision (or dream) of what kind BECs that will be formed. The general vision is already provided for by PCP II: a community of disciples: living in communion, participating in the priestly-prophetic-kingly mission of Christ, the Church of the poor. This must be further concretized.

The team will have to decide what is the most viable approach: pilot areas? zone by zone? simultaneous? A long range plan may be useful. The team may follow this strategic framework: evangelize the existing communities, organize the BECs, mobilize them for social transformation.
 
 

B. Evangelizing the Grassroots Communities

The process of organizing BECs is preceded by evangelization. The BECs come into being as the fruit of evangelization and conversion. Evangelization is a term that has been broadened by Paul VI in Evangelii Nuntiandi and by PCP II. However, in this section we will limit its understanding to the initial proclamation of the Christian message.

1. Those to be evangelized

It is presupposed that there are existing communities in the parish that have been identified. In the rural areas these are the village communities in the barrios and the sitios. In the urban areas these are the neighborhood communities in the poblacion, the slums, and housing projects or subdivision. These communities are to be evangelized and transformed into BECs. Priority should be given to vibrant communities and those that are marginalized. The object of evangelization should include not only those who are actively practicing their faith but also those who are non-practicing and indifferent. Evangelization should be directed not only at individuals but also families.

2. Method of Evangelization

There are many ways of evangelizing these communities. There are different programs that offer material and a systematic methodology: the REAP sessions prepared by the BEC-Service Office, the LUMKO, the DC team, etc. Most of these require that the community come together once a week for several months and go through the suggested process and content.

Seminars that last for several days (or nights) can be given. These are usually called evangelization seminars, basic-orientation seminars, mission seminars, etc. These seminars may also be given by installment (once a week or once a month).

Bible-reflection sessions may also be conducted. These may be held in the homes of the people to be evangelized. This may be attended by the entire family and also the neighbors. The bible-reflection session for the family can be called visita familia. It is an opportunity to evangelize the family. The bible-reflection for the neigborhood grouping can become the foundation of the BEC cells that will be formed later on. During this stage the bible-reflection is facilitated by the members of the formation team and the biblical themes and texts are selected by them.

The celebration of the Eucharist in these communities may also be the occasion for evangelization. This may be the street masses or masses for neighborhood communities. This may also be the mass-reflection (seminar within the mass) in the community chapel.

More creative forms may also be used to proclaim the Gospel - drama, singing, dance, etc. Music is a very important part of our life and culture. People love to sing. Thus music may be an effective form of communicating the Gospel message. Through singing, people may interiorize the message of evangelization.

Popular religious activities may be utilized as vehicles for evangelization. Among these are the novena for the fiesta, Holy Week activities, etc.

The witness and testimony of one's life is an aspect of evangelization . Those who facilitate the seminar should be ready to tell their own stories.

3. The Content of Evangelization

Since evangelization is the initial proclamation of the christian message, we should not expect to cover all the basic teaching of the faith. (This is the task of catechesis). The following general topics may be included: God, Christ, the Church - the Christian Community, the BECs, kingdom of God. There is a need to focus on important themes: God's love, Christ's liberating mission, etc. The message of the Gospel should be contextualized and inculturated. The message should be correlated with the life-situation and culture of the people.

The vision of the BECs should also be the content in the seminars. The PCP II vision of the Church and its realization in the BECs should be deeply understood. The people should understand more deeply the vision of the community of disciples - living in communion, being a priestly-prophetic and servant communities, being the Church of the poor.

4. Expected outcome of Evangelization

Evangelization should lead to the following:

* A deeper awareness of God's love and Christ's abiding presence

* Conversion (intellectual, religious, moral)

* The decision to live more actively as disciples in community.

Conversion and the desire for discipleship in community is the response to evangelization. Without going through a process of conversion, those who become members of the BECs may lack dynamism. This conversion may be ritualized by going to confession and making renewal of one's baptismal commitment.

Other effects during the evangelization stage should be:

* Deepening of the sense of community and the need to form an alternative community.

As the community gathers for the study-sessions, evangelization seminars and bible-reflection the sense of unity and solidarity grows. The members become more aware of their being a community. The proclamation of the Word builds up the community. The sharing of their faith-experiences and stories deepen their relationship. They also begin to feel the need to form an alternative community - a community that will embody the values of the Gospel and the kingdom.

* A deeper awareness of the present realities and the need to transform society.

A contextualized evangelization can conscienticize the members of the community. They become more aware of the sinful situation and structures - the poverty, injustice and oppression. They become more aware of their responsibility to transform their situation .
 
 

C. Organizing the Basic Ecclesial Communities

The organizing stage consist of setting up of structures and regular activites that would facilitate the deepening of the bond of communion within and among the communities, and that would promote their growth as prophetic, priestly and servant communities and as the Church of the Poor. During this stage the leaders that emerged will also be trained.

1. The emergence of the nucleus or core group

During the initial stage we cannot expect that all or the majority will actively participate in the activities of the BECs. There may be some people who are more responsive, committed and active than others. They form a core group or the nucleus of the BECs. Thus, the BEC during the initial stage will look like concentric circles with an inner circle made up of the nucleus, a middle circle composed of the seasonal or occasional members and then a wide circle made up of the marginal or the indifferent.

The nucleus should function as the leaven, light and salt. Although they constitute the minority, they are expected to make an impact in their communities. They will continue the process of evangelization. They should be imbued with missionary dynamism. They will be responsible for the expansion of the BEC and setting up structures and activities that will enable the BECs to grow. The leaders will be drawn from among the nucleus.

As the BECs expand in large communities, it may be necessary to divide them into smaller units (family groupings or neighborhood groupings) so that it would be easier for the members to become closer to each other. At the same time these smaller units should be inter-connected to avoid a ghetto or sectarian mentality. There has to be regular face-to-face encounter, interaction and communication so that the BEC can truly become a community of friends. This means coming together to share, work, pray, play and celebrate. Without these regular common activities, communion within BECs will not develop.
 
 

2. Facilitating the Growth of BECs as Prophetic Communities

BECs are called to be evangelized and evangelizing communities, learning and teaching communities, witnessing communities. The BECs continue the activities that have been set up during the initial evangelization stage (e.g. bible-reflection, study sessions, seminars, etc). The focus during the organizing stage is to make these activities regular and sustainable. These activities should therefore be facilitated by the leaders that have emerged. From being evangelized community, the BECs are called to become evangelizing communities.

The regular bible-reflection may be used as a means for on-going faith-life reflection of the community. It is also a means for continuing evangelization and catechesis. The members of the community come together regularly to reflect and share on the Word of God and on their situation. The bible-reflection should not become an intellectual or academic exercise. Instead of merely sharing their understanding of what the passage means, the participants should be encouraged to share their experiences, feelings, stories and personal testimony based on the theme or reading. There should be a lot of singing and shared prayers of petition and thanksgiving. The venue for the bible-reflection can either be the chapel or it can also move from house to house. If the BECs have been divided into clusters or cells, the bible-reflection may be done by these BEC cells.

The education committee may be set up. The task of this committee is to organize ongoing seminars that will deepen the members' understanding of their faith and of their situation. The committee must make sure that the BEC develops as center of evangelization and learning. The education committee may also organize seminars that prepare the members to celebrate the sacraments (pre-baptismal seminars, pre-confirmation seminars, pre-cana seminars, marriage enrichment seminars). These seminars may be conducted by the members of the education committee or they may invite outside facilitators from the parish level.

The seminars and study sessions organized by the education committee should also include the social teachings of the Church. There must also be constant updating regarding the situation and the current social and moral issues. This will prepare the BEC to make a critical stance and to denounce cases of injustice, exploitation and oppression.

The lay ministries related to the prophetic mission that may be promoted in the BECs are those of the evangelizers, catechists, bible-reflection facilitators, etc. These may be considered as part of the ministry of the Word.

The education committee can initiate evangelization seminars within the community - especially for those who were not able to participate in the earlier seminars conducted during the initial evangelization stage. The education committee may also organize evangelization seminars in neighboring areas where the BECs have not yet been formed. In this way the missionary spirit is awakened.

The members of the education committee and those engaged in the ministry of the Word need to be trained. Their training or formation may be handled at the parish level by the parish staff or parish formation team. At times they may be trained at the diocesan level.

3. Facilitating the Growth of BECs as Priestly/Worshipping Communities

The BECs have to develop as worshipping and celebrating communities. Regular liturgical celebrations should be set up. In many BECs in the rural areas where the people can not celebrate the Eucharist every Sunday, the Sunday Bible-Service can be celebrated in the community chapel. This is usually called Kasaulogan sa Pulong or Panimbahon. This has sometimes mistakenly been called a "priestless mass" or a "dry mass" because the format is like the Mass without the consecration and communion (although there are some areas where communion is given). It would be better to use other formats to avoid confusion. Whatever format is used, the most essential components are the liturgy of the Word, the prayers of the faithful and the thanksgiving prayer. The people are encouraged to actively participate in the singing, in the shared reflections on the readings, and in the prayers. The regular bible-service is presided by the lay liturgical leaders. In the Mindanao they are called Kaabag, or Pangulo sa Liturhiya.

In the urban areas and the poblacion, the Sunday bible-service may not be appropriate due to the proximity of the Church. The bible-sharing held on other days may be better. On Sundays the BECs in the urban areas may actively participate in the preparation and the celebration of the Eucharist in the parish church. This can be done by the mass-sponsoring. This means that the BECs take turns in sponsoring a Sunday mass. This involves preparing the liturgy, the readers, the songs, the offerings, and other symbolic and creative presentation. The BECs that sponsor the liturgy need to meet beforehand to plan out the liturgy and divide the tasks and functions. During the special liturgical seasons such as Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter, the liturgies that will be prepared are expected to be more creative, participative and inculturated. The BECs may also actively participate in the preparation and celebration of the parish fiesta. They can sponsor the novena and the liturgy for the fiesta.

Each BEC should be able to celebrate the Eucharist at least once every two months. A monthly mass is ideal but the size of the parish and the number of priests available would make this unrealistic in most of the parishes. The liturgy should be prepared beforehand and there should be greater participation and creativity. The priest may invite some of the people to share their reflections on the readings before he gives the homily. The parish priest should bear in mind that the regular barrio mass is his point of encounter with the BECs. The festive meal or snacks after the mass is important to allow the priest and the community to partake in the table-fellowship after the eucharistic fellowship. The priest will have a firsthand knowledge of what's happening in the BECs during this time. It may be helpful if the priest can sleep in the barrios where he celebrates the eucharist with the BECs.

New forms of praying the rosary may be introduced - like the biblical and community-oriented rosary. If there is widespread devotion to the blessed Virgin Mary, a regular Wednesday Mother of Perpetual Help Novena-Liturgy of the Word may be introduced. In the farming communities, rituals for planting and harvesting may be introduced. This is an opportunity for inculturation especially vis-a-vis the "animist" or traditional religious rituals.The BECs may also develop liturgies for birthdays, funerals, death anniversaries, house-blessings, etc.

The fiesta celebration in honor of the patron saint of the BECs remains one of the main expression of popular religiosity. The liturgy of the fiesta and the novena preceding it should be creative, participative and meaningful. As part of the preparation the community may come together to reflect on the meaning of the devotion to the saints, the life and virtues of their patron saint. Emphasis may be given on the saints as models for Christian living. The virtues of the particular saint may be used as the basis for selecting themes for the novena. The various neighborhood groupings or puroks may take turns in sponsoring and preparing the the novena liturgy. The BECs should learn to see the fiesta as a celebration of life. The symbolism of the Kingdom of God as a great feast or banquet becomes real in the fiesta.

A liturgy committee may be set up in each BEC. The task of this committee is to help facilitate the preparation and celebration of the liturgy. This committee will help ensure that there will be greater participation, relevance and creativity in the liturgical celebrations.
 
 

4. Promoting the Development of BECs as Servant Communities

The dimension that is often neglected or underdeveloped in BEC formation is that of being a servant community. The difficulty lies in making the community aware that service is an essential task of being a BEC. Another difficulty is the lack of skills or know-how.

For BECs to develop as servant communities, the communities must devote time to discuss the problems and issues that they are facing. There must be regular meetings and assemblies. They should be aware of what is happening around them and they should learn how to address these problems. The people have to learn learn how to actively participate in the identification of problems and issues, in planning and decision-making, and in the implementation and evaluation of their plans. These are the basic skills they need to learn.

Whatever program that will be set up or course of action to be undertaken should be a response to the needs and problems that have been identified by the community. In an area where health is a problem, a primary health care program or a community based health program can be set up. In areas where there is a high rate of unemployment, the BECs may decide to set up income generating projects or sustainable livelihood programs. In areas where the people are at the mercy of exploitative middlemen and loan-sharks, the BECs may organize multipurpose cooperatives. In areas where there is an ongoing armed conflict, the BECs may get involved in peace-building. In concrete this may mean organizing dialogues and setting up Zones of Peace. In areas where there is rampant destruction of the environment, the BECs may become actively involved in the defense of the forest and in the reforestation program.

In every BEC, a committee or several committees may be set up to monitor and facilitate the process of responding to the various problems and issues (whether political, socio-economic, ecological, etc). This may be called the "social action committee." Depending on the need other specialized committees may also be set up (justice and peace committee, human rights committee, care for the earth committee, livelihood program committee). This committee should also facilitate the active involvement and participation of the whole community in responding to the various issues and problems.

Whatever project, program or course of action, the BECs decide to pursue will require education, building up skills and funding. The parish formation team has to assist in the process of building up the capabilities and skills of the BECs, in linking up with NGOs and POs, in providing the education component for the program or project, and in building up alliances. A parish social action commission may be set up to coordinate the various social action programs and projects of the BECs. The diocesan social action center may also provide assistance to the parishes and BECs especially in skills training and looking for funding or capital.

There are dioceses that have training centers for organic farming, appropriate technology, community based health programs, cooperatives, etc. The BECs in these dioceses should avail of their services.

There are a number of NGOs that can help the BECs in building up their skills and capabilities. Some NGOs can help set up of cooperatives - providing education, management and accounting skills training, identifying funding agencies, etc. Some NGOs can help set up income generating projects and sustainable livelihood programs. Other NGOs may provide assistance in addressing various issues (peace and justice, ecology, gender sensitivity, etc.). The parish should identify and link up with these NGOs.

The BECs should not hesitate to tap government agencies that can assist them in their programs. There are lot of government agencies that have the duty to provide services to the people - whether it be the delivery of basic services, poverty alleviation, socio-economic assistance, etc.

5. Promoting the Growth of BECs as Church of the Poor

The BECs are called to be communities that make an option for the poor, that enable the poor to actively participate in the life and mission of the Church, and that empower the poor.

In organizing the BECs, the formation team should see to it that the poorest of the poor are really involved. In whatever activity (whether bible-reflection, liturgy, social action) the question should be asked: are the poorest of the poor involved or not? Do these activities enable the poor to actively participate in the mission of the Church? Do they empower the poor?

As the BECs grow and develop the preferential love and option for the poor must be inculcated. This is important in urban areas and subdivisions where the members of the BECs are not poor. These communities have to constantly ask: What are we doing for the poor in our midst, in our neighboring areas and within the parish. The members of these BECs should establish link and solidarity with poorer BECs, especially in the rural areas and in the urban slums.

6. Emergence and Training of Leaders

During the organizing stage, the leaders that have emerged will be tested, trained and formalized.

During the early stage of organizing it is better to allow the leaders to emerge rather than to hold immediate election. An informal and adhoc leadership is more desirable to allow the emergence, the testing and training of a new breed of leaders. At a later stage when the BECs have expanded and the structures have become more stable, the leaders will be formalized and confirmed by the community through an election.

The kind of leadership in the BECs is usually associated with the activities and ministries in the community. Leaders who will oversee and coordinate the BEC, leaders for liturgy, education or catechesis, for social action, etc. The leaders should learn to act collegially. They should form the core group of leaders in the BECs.

Leadership training emphasizes the idea of servant-leadership and promotes the participative-democratic style. It also involves learning skills in facilitating meetings, planning and evaluation.

The continuity and sustainability of the structure and activities of the BECs will depend on the quality of leaders that have emerged.
 
 

7. Structure of highly developed BECs

As BECs develop, their structures become more complex and sophisticated. There are sub-groupings or primary groups. There are various ministries and committees. There is also the BEC pastoral council composed of the leaders and coordinators of various committees and ministries. This is how the structure would look like:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

8. Interconnecting the BECs and creation of new Parish structures

The various BECs within the parish have to be interconnected. The parish has to be organized as a network of smaller communities. As the BECs emerge they can be linked into zones and the zones can be inter-linked. Activities that can bring the BECs together at the zone level and the parish level has to be organized. Meetings and assemblies attended by the representatives of BECs can also be organized. Common projects and programs can also be set up.

Many of the existing parish pastoral councils are usually composed of leaders of the mandated organizations. In parishes that have adopted the formation of BECs as a pastoral program, the BECs should be represented in the parish pastoral council.

Parish-level committees to assist BECs may also be formed: e.g. liturgy committee, education committee, social action committee, etc. The WESTY may be used as a parish structure: Worship, Education, Service, Temporalities, Youth.

A parish assembly may be held occasionally. All the BECs and other parish organizations should be represented in the assembly. This will be an occasion for BECs to report on their progress. The assembly can evaluate the parish plan and set the direction for the future.

The gathering of BECs in the parish may be organized. The parish fiesta may be an occasion for BECs to converge in the parish. They can participate in the novena, the liturgy, the agape, socials, games, etc. Another occasion may be the Easter celebration. The BECs may make a procession from their respective areas and converge in the parish center during the Easter vigil.
 
 

D. MOBILIZING BECS FOR SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION

The evangelization and organization of BECs should ultimately lead to their active participation in the process of social transformation.

Paradigms for Social Transformation

The question is how can the BECs be mobilized to transform society? The answer to this question depends on the paradigm for social transformation that we are using. There are contending paradigms. A paradigm that was dominant during the Marcos era is what may be called the "classical revolutionary paradigm." It has a totally pessimistic view of reality: the present structure or system of society is totally oppressive or evil, hence revolution is an imperative. The goal of the revolution is to seize state power and then proceed with the radical restructuring of society. The principal means is armed struggle (although there are some who are open to legal and extra-legal means). After the Marcos era, a new paradigm for social transformation emerged. The emphasis of this paradigm is to transform the structures of society from below using non-violent and creative means. The terrain of the struggle includes not only the political but also socio-economic, cultural, ecological, gender, etc.
 
 

 

Classical Revolutionary Paradigm

 

Civil Society Paradigm 

The present structure or system of society is totally corrupt or evil, a revolution is imperative

Goal: Apocalyptic seizure of state power through violence, the primacy of politics and of the armed struggle. 

Agents: Vanguard Party, People's Army, United Front. Hegemony of the Party over other groups.

Once state power is captured, then the old economic, political and cultural structures will be destroyed and the new structures will be built over the ruins of the old. The radical restructuring of society can only take place after the victory of the revolutionary movement. Change from top to bottom - using the coercive power of the state. Liquidation of the ruling class. Centralization of power..

Utopian project: Workers' Paradise, Classless society

The structures of society are not totally corrupt or evil. They are just imperfect and need to be transformed. 

Goal: Transformation from below, using non-violent, democratic and creative means. The terrain of struggle is not exclusively political, it also includes the socio-economic, ecological, gender, cultural. The changes should start now and should immediately be experienced, especially the political and economic empowerment of the people. Everything is inter-related so a change in one area may have an impact on other areas or on the whole. Integral Development 

Agents: Civil society (NGO, PO, grass-roots communities). Pluralism.

What is important is not just the end but also the process and the means. The aim is not to create a utopia - the perfect society, but a society that is more just, peaceful, democratic, free and progressive.

 
Those using the classical revolutionary paradigm often try to mobilize BECs to support the struggle of the party to seize the state apparatus. This will mean participating in militant activities organized by the party or the mass movements: attending protest rallies, marches, strikes, etc. This may also mean supporting the armed struggle - by providing logistical support, supplies, financial aid, intelligence, recruits, etc. Thus, the BECs will become part of the mass base of the movement that can be mobilized to support the revolution or the so-called "people's war." BECs that have used this paradigm have often been been denounced as subversive. They have been suspected of being infiltrated or used by ideological groups. Many of them have been subjected to military harassment and persecution. However, under the present situation using the classical revolutionary paradigm as a framework for mobilizing BECs would be inappropriate and ineffective. This is a paradigm that has been abandoned by many people.

The new paradigm for social transformation can provide a more appropriate framework for mobilizing BECs for social transformation. The BECs may be considered as part of civil society that are transforming society from below - from the grassroots. There are several areas or terrain where the BECs may be mobilized: socio-economic, political, ecology, etc.

Socio-Economic

The BECs may be mobilized to engage in socio-economic projects that can transform the local socio-economic terrain. Thus, for example, if the communities are under the mercy of the local comprador-capitalists and loan-sharks, the setting up of multipurpose cooperatives can bring about a change in the local economic system. Setting up sustainable community-based livelihood programs can be a source of economic empowerment for the poor. It may be possible to create a network of cooperatives within the parish, the diocese and beyond the diocese. These cooperative can in turn link with NGOs and other cooperative federation. In the future, the BECs may help set up small-scale industries and enterprises using appropriate technology. These industries may be owned and managed by the members of the communities. It might be possible to build up a communitarian/cooperative economy from the grassroots.The type of mobilization in the socio-economic terrain may not be that dramatic. But it can be very effective in changing the local economy.

The BECs may be mobilized to support the struggle of peasants for the implementation of genuine agrarian reform.

In areas where there is lack of basic services (like drainage, sanitation, water, roads, etc) the BECs may be mobilized to demand from the appropriate government agencies to deliver these basic services.

BECs in urban slums/squatters area can be mobilized to resist demolition, demand urban land reform or relocation sites and housing program.

Political

There is already in place a democratic political system, although it is still elitist in character. The BECs may be mobilized to empower the people and enable them to actively participate in the decision-making process. During the election period, the BECs may be mobilized for voter's education and to monitor the conduct of election, etc. The BECs may even be mobilized to support candidates and parties that are genuinely pro-poor and pro-people and that can help bring about genuine social transformation. Since the Local Government Code has given more power to the local government units, the BECs may get involved in the electoral struggle at the local level. The BECs may be mobilized to monitor the conduct of local government officials and struggle against corrupt and abusive ones.

The BECs may be mobilized against moves to introduce anti-democratic provisions in the constitution. In areas where there is an ongoing armed conflict, the BECs may be mobilized to set up zones of peace and to participate in the peace process. The BECs can be part of the grassroots peace constituency that will pressure the warring parties to come to a negotiated peace settlement. In areas, where there are violations of human rights and civil liberties, the BECs may be mobilized to monitor these violations and defend the rights of people.

Ecology

The BECs may be mobilized to protect the environment and maintain the ecological balance. This may mean struggling against companies that engage in the denudation of the forest, in the pollution of the seas, rivers and lakes, etc. The BECs may also be mobilized in the reforestation program.

Using the C.O. method

There are times when the C.O. (community organizing) method may be helpful. Whenever this is used one should bear in mind that every mobilization is preceded by painstaking conscientization and organization. The communities should be made aware of the issues that they are confronting. A lot of organizing work is required for mobilization. The BECs should build up alliances and get the support of other BECs, NGOs, POs.

Every mobilization should be preceded by strategic and tactical planning and followed by systematic evaluation. The people should be actively involved in the decision making process, in the implementation of plans and in evaluation. There should also be an integration between prayer, reflection and praxis. Liturgical celebrations or bible-reflection can be held before, during and after mobilizations.

The PCP II emphasizes Active Non-violence as a means that the BECs have to use in the struggle for social transformation. There are various approaches that can be used: conflict-confrontation, pressure tactics, negotiation, advocacy and lobbying.

Concluding Remarks

Building BECs is an ongoing process. It is aimed at renewing the Church and transforming Philippine society. One can never say that we have finally arrived. Like the Kingdom of God, the BECs may be regarded as an "already-and-not yet" phenomenon. The strategic framework that we have discussed is like a road-map that can help us find our way towards reaching our goal. It will take time. It will not be easy. We will make a lot of mistakes and encounter setbacks. It can be discouraging when things do not work out as expected. We must learn from our mistakes and constantly improvise. We should be like the farmers and fishermen, who constantly read the signs of the times and know when is the right time for doing things and what is the most appropriate way of going about it.

The formation team will have a big role during the initial stage but once the BECs have grown and matured, the role of the team becomes minimal. The ongoing task of building up the BECs is the primary responsibility of the people themselves.