Fr. Peter Meienberg was born on 27th November 1929 at St. Gallen-St. Fiden (Switzerland), the second of six children. After his education at St. Gallen and at the abbey school of Einsiedeln, he joined the Benedictine Order and studied philosophy and theology at Fribourg University. Ordained priest in 1956, he obtained a licentiate in theology in 1957. One year later, he studied sociology at Fordham University in New York, where he received a Master’s Degree in 1960. There followed courses in social anthropology and social psychology at Columbia University, and a specialized programme at Coady International Institute in Nova Scotia, Canada, from 1960 to 1961.
Fr. Peter Meienberg arrived in East Africa in November 1961. After an initial ten years of missionary activities in the diocese of Peramiho, Tanzania, he finally came to Kenya in 1972. Since then, he has dedicated his life to the poor, the needy and specifically to refugees. For the last 15 years, he has been serving as a Chaplain in several prisons in Nairobi. Before that, Fr. Peter Meienberg worked in Nairobi, Nanyuki, Eldoret, Tigoni and the Kerio-Valley and he stayed for some time with nomadic parstoralists in the north of Kenya. Spritual care and humanitarian aid have always been in the center of his service – be it with prisoners or with refugees or poor Kenyans.
As the only priest among a group of journalists, Fr. Peter Meienberg arrived at Goma (eastern Congo) on board a Russian Ilyushin, on 28th July 1994. Those fleeing the genocide in Rwanda by the hundreds of thousands had gathered in this place of horror. He went to the Kivumba refugee camp where 300,000 Hutu lived in squalid, indescribable conditions. Goma became the turning point in his life.
In 1999, Fr. Peter Meienberg established his own relief organization, Faraja. Initially focusing mainly on humanitarian aid for refugees arriving from the Great Lakes region, Fr. Peter expanded his service soon to the dwellers of a nearby slum. Also in 1999, he started his work as a Chaplain in prisons, at the beginning in Langata Women’s Prison and soon after also in other penal institutions across Nairobi. Since then, the prison ministry has become part and parcel of Faraja’s work.
Fr. Peter Meienberg has written several books and musical oeuvres. In the early 1960’s, he wrote a text book for civic education in the young nation of Tanzania. More recently, there have been two books and a film about his life and work in East Africa.