A Catholic missionary priest in Madagascar known for serving the poor living on a landfill has been nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
Fr Pedro Opeka, 72, is a Vincentian priest from Argentina who has worked with the poor in Madagascar for more than three decades. He founded the Akamasoa humanitarian association in 1989 as a “solidarity movement to help the poorest of the poor” living on the site of a garbage dump.
Janez Janša, the Prime Minister of Slovenia, has announced that he nominated Fr Opeka for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize for his dedication to “helping people living in appalling living conditions”.
The Akamasoa association (meaning “good friend”) has provided former homeless people and families with 4,000 brick houses and has helped to educate 13,000 children and young people.
Pope Francis visited Fr Opeka’s “City of Friendship” built atop a rubbish dump on the outskirts of the capital city of Antananarivo during his apostolic visit to Madagascar in September 2019.
Pedro Pablo Opeka was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1948. At the age of 18, he entered the seminary of the Congregation for the Mission of St Vincent de Paul in San Miguel, Argentina.
In 1975, he was ordained a priest at the Basilica of Lujan, and in 1976 he returned to Madagascar, where he has remained to this day.
Upon seeing the desperate poverty in the capital city of Antananarivo, especially at the 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 and the work of the people of Madagascar, he founded villages, schools, food banks, small businesses, and even a hospital to serve the poor through the Akamasoa association.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Fr Opeka has been working to help families who have fallen even deeper into poverty as a consequence of coronavirus measures.
“The situation is difficult for families, for the poor who have many children. We do not have rice. We do not have water. We need water and soap,” Fr Opeka told Vatican Radio in April 2020.