Friday, December 25, 2015

'Schindler of Congo' Marrion P'Udongo Is Now in Need of Saving

You can donate for his kidney transplant at

by Cassandra Vinograd
Dec. 25, 2015

He's been dubbed the "Schindler of Congo" for acts of heroism, but now he's the one in need of saving.

Pastor Marrion P'Udongo earned his nickname for saving nearly 100 people from murderous militiamen in 2003 — but that was only one of his many acts of courage.

He's gone into the bush to coax out child soldiers, helped scores of rape victims secure medical treatment, fed and clothed inmates in Congo's most notorious prison and helps run an orphanage for children impacted by his nation's decades-long war.

But today, the man also known simply as "pastor" to many spends his days hooked up to a dialysis machine and praying for a miracle.

"I don't feel in my heart that I should die now," he told NBC News. "I still have a lot to do."

P'Udongo nearly died in 2011 from kidney failure; a massive fundraising campaign helped cover the cost of a life-saving transplant. But the donor organ was slow to take and this spring he got bad news: his body was rejecting the kidney.

Suddenly, he was back where he started — and desperately in need of assistance.

Several people volunteered as new donors. A match was found and paperwork arranged for a transplant at a hospital in India, which reportedly has a higher success rate for such procedures.

"There are really people who want to help. So many. But the challenge is that we don't have money," P'Udongo said.

He needs around $35,000 for the procedure. The pastor is currently living off his $200 a month salary and a patchwork of donations to pay for medical care and rent in Uganda's capital, where he gets dialysis three times a week and only goes out for church.


P'Udongo's current reality stands in stark contrast to his life in Bunia, where his work made him feel "like I'm doing one of the best things in the world."

Human-rights workers, journalists and Hollywood stars like Ben Affleck who worked with him there agree — and are fighting to ensure he gets back there to continue his mission.


"He has kind of a power around him — it's a magic," he explained, adding that what sets P'Udongo apart was his ability to access all sides in the protracted conflict.

"He's like a Moses character," Mealer said. "You would walk through the bush and people would just run out to him. He was this kind of lighthouse through all these years of war. Even the most wicked militia guys, they loved him."

The Schindler comparisons started after the siege of Bunia in May 2003. Ethnic Lendu militiamen tore into the town and started butchering members of the Hema ethnic group in the streets.

Dozens of desperate Hema went to the pastor's house seeking refuge.

"Hema were being captured by the militias in order to be slaughtered," the pastor explained. He sheltered around 70 people for about a week — with little food or water but plenty of prayer — until fighters kicked down his door.

"The militia came in and they wanted to kill the people who were there," P'Udongo said. "All Hema — including my wife."

He said he thought he might die but felt compelled to act, so he pleaded for mercy.

"People cannot be killed by dogs," he said. "I was feeling that passion in my heart to ... plead with them."

The militiamen seemed undeterred, until a fighter came in who'd seen pastor preach.

"He said, 'we know this pastor, he's a good man so we cannot kill these people here,'" P'Udongo recalled. That stroke of luck — or act of God, as pastor describes it — secured their safety, and the militiamen escorted all of them to a U.N. base.


Pastor has carried on his saving since that moment in Bunia, most recently devoting his time to his prison ministry and helping run the St. Kizito orphanage there.

His colleague there, Elysee Pifwa, volunteered and matched as his kidney donor — a testament to pastor's impact, according to Mealer.

"When you put it into terms of him being gone … There's no getting him back," Mealer said. "There's no reproducing someone like this who has given, who gives his life for others."

He said that the 80 kids at the orphanage — many brought in by P'Udongo himself — would be devastated to lose their protector.

"Those kids need him — they really depend on him," added Mealer, one of the orphanage's founders. "He's the oil that helps that place run."


"This is a good man doing good work in a place where there isn't a lot of goodness left," he said. "It's a good person working on this earth, helping people without a voice and without a lot of power. If he's gone, that will be lost. The darkness that tries to force itself into every small place will win again."


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