In the late 1970s, Father Pedro Opeka decided to settle in Madagascar. The priest had been shocked to see desperate poverty in the capital city of Antananarivo, especially in garbage dumps, where people live in cardboard boxes and children compete with pigs for food, and decided to do something about it.» If you are willing to work, I will help you»So, the priest born in San Martín, in the province of Buenos Aires, managed to build thousands of homes, schools, clubs and productive ventures. His work earned him the Nobel Peace Prize nomination in 2012, and this year he will again compete for the world’s most prestigious award. The Prime Minister of Esolovenia, Janez Jansa, chose Opeka for the award for his dedication to «helping people living in appalling living conditions.» Pedro Pablo Opeka was born in Buenos Aires 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 St. Vincent de Paul in St. Michael and two years later 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 returned to Madagascar, where he remained to this day. With the help of foreigners and the work of the people of the African country he founded villages, schools, food banks, small businesses and even a hospital to care for the poor through the association Akamasoa («Good Friend»), which he founded in 1989 as a «solidarity movement to help the poorest of the poor». The association has awarded four thousand 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 the «City of Friendship» of Akamasoa, which was built on 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 the work of around 25,000 people and called on young people to help the association never lower «never arms in the face of the dire effects of poverty , nor do you ever succumb to the temptations of the easy way or to lock yourself in.»
During the visit, the Pontiff also recalled that Father Opeka was his student at the Faculty of Theology and thanked the priest and his collaborators «for his prophetic witness and his hope-generating testimony.» Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world and during the coronavirus pandemic Father Opeka has worked to help families who have fallen further into poverty as a result of preventive measures to prevent coronavirus contagion.» The situation is difficult for families, for the poor who have many children. We don’t have any rice. We don’t have any water. We need soap and water,» the priest told Vatican Radio in April 2020.Among the other Nobel Peace Prize nominees 2021 are the Black Lives Matter movement, the World Health Organization, Greta Thunberg, Donald Trump, Stacey Abrams, Jared Kushner, Russian dissident Alexei Navalny and Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.