AFRICA/MADAGASCAR - Founder of the "City of Friendship": Missionary nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

Friday, 12 February 2021 missionaries  

Antananarivo (Agenzia Fides) - The missionary and founder of the "City of Friendship" in Opeka, which Pope Francis visited during his visit to Madagascar in September 2019, was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. The 72-year-old Argentine Father Pedro Opeka is a member of the Vincentines and founded the Akamasoa aid organization in 1989 as a "solidarity movement to help the poorest of the poor" who lived on a landfill on the outskirts of the Madagascan capital, Antananarivo.
Now he has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021 by the Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša for his commitment to "helping people who suffer from appalling living conditions".
Father Pablo Opeka was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1948 to Slovenian parents who fled what was then Yugoslavia to Argentina after the beginning of the communist regime.
At the age of 18 he entered the seminary of the Congregation for the Mission of St. Vincent de Paul in San Miguel, Argentina. He later studied philosophy in Slovenia and theology in France, and then spent two years as a missionary in Madagascar. In 1975 he was ordained a priest in the Basilica of Lujan, and in 1976 he returned to Madagascar, where he has remained to this day.
When he saw the desperate poverty of the capital Antananarivo, especially in landfills where people live in cardboard boxes and children compete with pigs for food, he decided to do something for the poor. With help from abroad he founded villages, schools, food banks, small businesses and even a hospital and helped the poor through the association "Akamasoa". Akamasoa (which means "good friend") built 4,000 brick houses and supported the education of 13,000 children and young people.
Even during the coronavirus pandemic, Father Opeka tried to help families who fell further into poverty due to the measures taken against the coronavirus. "The situation is difficult for families, for the poor who have many children. We have nothing to laugh about because we have no water. We need water and soap", Fr. Opeka told Vatican Radio in April 2020.
During his visit to the "City of Friendship" of the Akamasoa Association, Pope Francis emphasized that "poverty must not be a cause of death (see Fides, 9/9/2019). (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 12/2/2021)