The Common Good

Conservationist: Dominique Bikaba

Dominique Bikaba
Dominique Bikaba

“Peace for humanity is not only the absence of war, or the end of violence ... For us Christians, peace is based on a fundamental new relationship between mankind and God. That is why Christ said he brought peace, ‘not as the world gives.’ He brought a different peace.”Bishop Samuel Ruiz García, known as Don Samuel, a champion of the poor and of the indigenous people in southern Mexico

Eastern Congo is home to some of the world’s most stunning scenery—and some of its most brutal and unimaginable violence. The relationship between these two symbols of the region is a close one.

Part of the call of Christian peacemakers is not only to make peace between people a reality, but also to bring peace between people and the planet. In his work, conservationist Dominique Bikaba recognizes that peace between people and peace with our environment are closely intertwined, and he is seeking to bring about both.

Armed groups are waging war in eastern Congo, taking no heed of the grave impact that the conflict is having on the environment around them. The resources of the region are being exploited, to the detriment of future generations. This disregard for the communities of the region is a modern-day salting of the land. It’s a practice well known to the people of Israel in the Old Testament, in which armies would spread salt on the land of their adversaries so that nothing would grow there (see Judges 9:45).

The conflict in Congo is being waged on local communities—but Dominique is a problem-solver. He is seeking creative ways to conserve these communities while conserving the environment they inhabit, fostering the inherent relationship between the two. He is “bringing the forest to the community.”

Through educating local communities, he is helping them create sustainable communities that live in peace with their local environment—not in conflict with it. And when it comes to peacemaking, a sustainable community is vital.

As Glen H. Stassen writes in a July-August 1999 Sojourners article, “Nonviolence in Time of War,” “Foster just and sustainable economic development. When a country experiences … economic deprivation, it is more likely to have a war.”

Dominique’s commitment to being a peacemaker is reflected in his unwavering commitment to the environment around him, and an understanding that without peace between communities and their natural environment, there can be no true peace in Congo.

Watch Dominique’s video

Discussion questions

1. What is the connection between protecting a community’s environment and protecting a community’s children?

2. Dom was raised by Pygmies, a marginalized community in central Africa. How can people of faith stand with other marginalized communities to take action for justice?

3. How can work on local environmental issues help foster community where you live?

Prayer

O Lord, we pray today for the Democratic Republic of Congo. We pray for the end of violence and injustice. We pray for good governance and a healthy environment. For all creatures who are victims of exploitation, we ask for your healing and protection. For those involved in corruption and impunity, God, change their hearts. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers. Amen.

More about Dominique

Dominique Bikaba is the founder of Strong Roots, a grassroots organization focused on conservation, sustainable development, and educating and empowering the local and indigenous communities that live in the region. The organization protects and conserves wildlife in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. In the past 15 years, stresses on the park, including illegal mining, refugee camps, foreign invasions, civil wars, poaching, and bush meat trades, have put the Eastern Lowland Gorilla at a high risk of extinction.

Dominique has a degree in rural development and extensive professional background in conservation and development. Though he would prefer to live closer to the forest where he spent his childhood, for safety concerns he lives with his wife and children in the city of Bukavu.

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