Vatican News reports that Lazarist missionary, Fr. Pedro Opeka has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work among the poor in Madagascar.

In the article written by Lisa Zengarini, “The Argentinian-Slovenian Lazarist missionary Father Pedro Opeka and his humanitarian association “Akamasoa” (“City of Friendship”)” was nominated for the Peace Nobel Prize by the Prime Minister of Slovenia, Janez Janša. The nomination was announced on January 31st on the official website of the Slovenian government.

According to the Prime Minister,  the Akamasoa Community – which father Opeka founded over 30 years ago and which Pope Francis visited in September 2019 during his Apostolic Journey to Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius – has given an outstanding contribution to “social and human development” in Madagascar, helping it to achieve the 2030 UN goals for sustainable development.

Catholic News Agency adds that Fr Pedro Opeka is 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.

The Vincentian Priest, who is now 72, hails from Argentina, but has worked with the poor in Madagascar for more than thirty years. 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.

After his ordination in 1975 Fr Opeka returned to Madagascar, where he has lived and worked till date. He made the decision to return “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.”

Over the years, Fr Opeka has been able to found villages, schools, food banks, small businesses, and even a hospital to serve the poor through the Akamasoa association, with help from the people of Madagascar, and the goodwill of friends abroad.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Opeka has been working to help families who have fallen even deeper into poverty as a consequence of coronavirus measures.

Our prayers are with Fr Opeka. We hope to see many more like him in our day.