Missionary priest in Africa nominated for Nobel Peace Prize
Argentine priest and Catholic missionary, Fr. Pedro Opeka, known for his service to the poorest in Madagascar, has been nominated for this year's Nobel Peace Prize.
Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša announced Fr Opeka's nomination for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize for his dedication to 'helping people living in appalling living conditions.'
Fr Opeka, 72, is a Vincentian priest who has worked with the poor in Madagascar for more than three decades. He founded the humanitarian association Akamasoa (“good friend”) in 1989 as a “solidarity movement to help the poorest of the poor” who live in the garbage dumps.
The association has provided 4,000 houses of noble material to homeless individuals and families and has helped educate 13,000 children and young people since its inception.
Pope Francis visited Akamasoa's “City of Friendship,” which was built on top of a garbage dump on the outskirts of the capital, Antananarivo, during his apostolic visit to Madagascar in September 2019.
The Holy Father thanked the priest for his work on behalf of around 25 thousand people and asked the young people who help the association not to “never lower their arms before the dire effects of poverty, nor ever succumb to the temptations of the easy way or of closing in on yourself ”.
During the visit, the Pontiff also recalled that Fr. Opeka was a student of his at the Faculty of Theology and thanked the priest and his collaborators 'for their prophetic witness and their hopeful witness.
Pedro Pablo Opeka was born in Buenos Aires (Argentina) in 1948. His parents were refugees from Slovenia who emigrated after the start of the communist regime in Yugoslavia.
At the age of 18, he entered the seminary of the Congregation for the Mission of San Vicente de Paúl in San Miguel (Argentina). Two years later he traveled to Europe to study Philosophy in Slovenia and Theology in France. He then spent two years as a missionary in Madagascar.
In 1975 he was ordained a priest in the Basilica of Luján and in 1976 he returned to Madagascar, where he remains to this day.
Seeing the desperate poverty in the capital city of Antananarivo, especially in the garbage dumps, where people live in cardboard boxes and children compete with pigs for food, he decided to do something for the poor.
With help sent from abroad and the work of the people of Madagascar, he founded villages, schools, food banks, small businesses and even a hospital to care for the poor through the Akamasoa association.
Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world and during the coronavirus pandemic, Fr. Opeka has worked to help families who have fallen further into poverty as a result of preventive measures to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
“The situation is difficult for families, for the poor who have many children. We don't have rice. We have no water. We need soap and water, ”the priest told Vatican Radio in April 2020
This is not the first time that Father Opeka has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Representatives of the Slovenian Parliament also nominated the priest in 2012.
In 2020 Nobel Prize winner was the United Nations World Food Program.