Prime Minister Janez Janša nominated Pedro Opeka, a missionary with a special mission, for the Nobel Peace Prize. Opeka was already nominated in 2012 and, if we remember the winners from the past couple of years, we can definitely say that he more than deserves to receive the award. According to prominent experts, Opeka is the reflection of exceptional selflessness, courage and a sense of responsibility. “Peter Opeka’s way of life shows us that it is possible to create something from nothing, more from less, homes from landfills, warmth from the cold,” the former Archbishop Anton Stres emphasised. And the former President of the RTV Slovenia Programme Council, Mitja Štular, pointed out: “I hope that all of us in our country will soon realise just how exceptional this man is.”
According to the theologist and philosopher Janez Juhant, Pedro Opeka deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for his selfless work for and with those most affected in Africa, and for the versatile work he has done in this field with the help of various benefactors and, above all, for his personal commitment. On the other hand, the moral theologist Ivan Štuhec pointed out that Opeka has been considered for the nomination several times before, but it seems that there is something about him that the members of the Nobel Prize committee do not like. “He should get the award because with the money he would receive, he could actually help the poor people that are currently living in landfills transition into a life worthy of human beings,” Štuhec made it clear, adding that Opeka’s work shows concrete results. The effects are visible and tangible. “He is not someone who just talks a lot but does not actually do anything.”
Štuhec believes that Opeka has still not received the Nobel Peace Prize because he is not a media construct. “Can somebody provide some answers or proof that would make it clear to me why Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize even before he actually started his more serious work as the President of the United States? There is no other answer to this question, other than – there are a lot of mutual agreements involved in this,” he explained. Something similar might happen in the case of Greta Thunberg, who was made to be this great environmental fighter by the media. “But no one is showing concrete results of her work.” According to Štuhec, Opeka would have already received the award if the concrete results of a person’s work and efforts were the only and right criterion, as was the case, for example, with Mother Theresa.
Former Archbishop Anton Stres believes that Opeka deserves the Nobel Peace Prize, mainly because he demonstrates exceptional perseverance, organisational abilities, courage and a sense of responsibility. Akamasoa is more than just the residential settlements; it also has its own schools, hospitals and healthcare centres. “The sheer scale of this venture is attracting the attention, as well as the admiration of the international public,” he explained. He went on to say that Opeka is a man of humanistic and universally valued principles, on the basis of which he leads and directs all of his activities.
“Peter Opeka’s way of life shows us that it is possible to create something from nothing, more from less, homes from landfills, warmth from the cold,” he emphasised. However, as he said, justice and solidarity are not enough to create all of this – faith and self-confidence are also required, as is the self-respect of the people who were previously forced to live in landfills, among garbage; in addition to perseverance and trust in man – in yourself and in others. He added that Opeka deserves to win the award, as he also pays special attention to the upbringing and education of children from the landfills. “He is making sure that the new generations will not fall into the misery of their parents.”
That is why Opeka is paying special attention to building schools of all levels, as well as promoting sports and cultural activities of young people. In short, he is taking care of the overall development of a whole new generation. The Nobel Peace Prize award, this most prestigious world decoration, would not only be well-deserved when it comes to the founder of the Akamasoa association, but it would also be a great moral and material support for his work and the principles that lead him.
“Poverty is not fatal,” Opeka believes. Man can be stronger than destiny. This is his belief – this is his lifestyle – and he keeps on proving that the statement is true with his everyday work and keeps on trying to instil this belief in all those who seek his help.
The former President of the RTV Programme Council Mitja Štular was the co-organiser of Opeka’s visit to Slovenia on two separate occasions, and he emphasised that his visits were always met with an exceptional response. “Slovenians felt that he is an exceptional man who does great things,” he explained. According to Štular, Opeka deserves to win the Nobel Peace Prize, because he builds and does not tear down, he excels in deeds and not in empty words and promises, he creates opportunities where people live and does not make empty promises about the “promised lands” somewhere else.
“In addition to all of this, he also deserves to win the award for practically proving that a model of bridging the gap between the rich and the poor can be successful, as well as for restoring human dignity to those on the margins, and this is a remarkable contribution to world peace in the long term, to the understanding, to human dignity and greater prosperity,” he explained and added that Opeka remains fully committed to his work and has been doing it for the past thirty years, without seeking any self-promotion. He is not an artificially created product of the media or the influential groups that only work for their own benefit. “I hope that all of us in our country will soon realise just how exceptional this man is and I hope that we will get more opportunities to bring him to Slovenia.”
Given the previous recipients of the award, Opeka would definitely deserve to win the award as well
The Lazarist and missionary, who was born to Slovenian parents in Buenos Aires, was already nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize years ago, because of his humanitarian work in Madagascar. “If we think back to all the people who have already received this award, we cannot help but wonder why Opeka has not received it yet, as he undoubtedly deserves is more than the majority of those who have already received it,” historian Tamara Griesser Pečar said. Like everyone else, she herself also pointed out that for decades, Opeka has been selflessly advocating for the homeless, living in landfills in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar. “When he came to Madagascar in 1980, he found thousands of people there, including many children, who were searching for rotten food in the burning landfills, as it was the only way they were able to survive.”
Seeing this, Opeka quickly realised that his primary task as a missionary, and the role of the entire Catholic Church, for that matter, is to help the people come out of their misery. “He believed that hunger was an obstacle in people’s ability to pray,” she told us, explaining that he had started building a village near the landfill, and then convinced people to start building their own houses, without modern machinery. In doing so, he created new job opportunities and restored people’s dignity and independence. “They did not just build residential houses; they also built a hospital, various workshops and schools.” According to Griesser Pečar, it is the education of children that helps people to get out of their misery. Opeka, however, is the person who enabled the humanitarian association to be set up in order to fight poverty and made it clear that the locals have to commit to going to work every day and the families have to commit to sending their children to schools.