|Padre Pedro Opeka|
Pedro Opeka with children in Akamasoa
|Born||29 June 1948
San Martín, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Pedro Pablo Opeka (born June 29, 1948), known also as Father Opeka, is a Catholic priest from Argentina, working as a missionary in Madagascar. He exemplifies a new type of missionary: not someone committed to converting and preaching, but someone fully dedicated to the poor, helping them to build their future, with help of Slovenian people. For his service to the poor, he was awarded the Legion of Honor.
Opeka was born in Argentina, in San Martín, a suburb of Buenos Aires, to Argentine Slovene parents. His father was from Begunje near Cerknica in Inner Carniola, his mother from Velike Lašče in Lower Carniola;. His father was a former Home Guard Slovenian anti-communist German-led auxiliary police force member and avoided post-war summary executions by fleeing to Italy. He met future Pedro Opeka's mother, also a post-war refugee, in a refugee camp in Italy, where they married. After marriage, they emigrated together to Argentina to avoid the Yugoslav communist regime.
Pedro grew up in the streets of Buenos Aires. Very early as a child, from the age of 9, he worked with his father as a bricklayer. At 15, he hesitated between becoming a football professional and a priest. And he eventually decided to become a priest and enter the seminary of the Lazarists in Buenos Aires. At 20, he went to Ljubljana in Slovenia (then part of Yugoslavia), to further his training. Two years later, In 1970, he went to Madagascar where he worked as a bricklayer in the parishes of the Lazarists.
He finished his studies at the Catholic Institute of Paris (1972-1975), where he learnt French. He met the Taizé Community near Cluny in France, who have their members supporting communities in 24 major cities around the globe, and travelled all over Europe.
Mission in Madagascar
On 28 September 1975, Pedro Opeka was ordained priest in Buenos Aires and was nominated responsible of a rural parish in southeast Madagascar, Vangaindrano.
In 1989, his Lazarist superiors nominated him director of a seminary in Antananarivo, the capital. But when he saw the dump from the hills of the city, he discovered people rummaging among garbage to find something to eat and sleeping in huts made of hemp propped between mountains of waste. Pedro Opeka began talking to them, to convince them that they could leave that misery and abuse, for their children. With the team of young people he had trained from Vangaindrano, he wrote after long discussions the articles and statuses of Akamasoa ('good friends' in the local language)in December 1989.
Father Pedro simply had no money and started it all with €900 he borrowed from various Christian missions.
Creation of Akamasoa
Father Pedro Opeka created a local non-governmental organization called Akamasoa (the good and faithful friends) in December 1989 to continue his work with the Malagasy people. He appointed a team of staff helping him to manage the daily activities and to provide continuous support to poor people.
Today Akamasoa sustains about thirty thousand people in 18 villages, ten thousand children in these villages, who all go to school, following the building of 37 new schools along these years.
About four thousand families live in the 18 villages, but another 900,000 Malagasy people have been supported for one day to three weeks in the 'welcome centers', being offered rice, a cover, some cloth and a small package to be 'born again' to life..
Son to a courageous father who taught him building arts, Father Pedro Opeka taught the Akamasoa youth how to build houses, first in wood, then in bricks and mortar.
Over 3,000 solid houses have been built by Akamasoa to date for people who used to live on the earth in card-board boxes... Akamasoa is building each year new schools, clinics, and centres for training and production. Over 3,600 jobs have been created for the villagers and are being paid by Akamasoa each month.
A comprehensive economic structure, Akamasoa has grown to being 75% self-sufficient in revenue, thanks to the creation of stone and gravel quarries, to the craft and embroidery workshops, to a compost centre next to the 'Tana' public rubbish. Father Pedro Opeka taught Akamasoa people tips on how to divide and sort the rubbish, to transport the compost issued from rubbish to creating agriculture small farms. Akamasoa is also training construction artisans (bricklayers, carpenters, cabinet makers, operators and street pavers)who have built or rebuilt roads and bridges to help communities all over the villages and the country...
Akamasoa lies about 12 km from the center of Antananarivo, in the road in the direction of Tamatave.
In 2007, Opeka was named a knight of the Legion of Honor. The award, decreed on 12 October by the President of France, recognizes his 20 years of public service of the poor in Antananarivo. This award recognizes the ongoing fight led here against poverty by this man of faith and his 412 co-workers: physicians, midwives, teachers, engineers, technicians, and social workers, all of them from Madagascar.
In 2012 Opeka was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize by united Slovenian European Parliament representatives regardless of political party. In 2013, MEP Lojze Peterle once again started with the nomination process for Opeka; the nomination was supported by Roman Jakič, then Slovenian MP (PS), and also by Janez Janša, then Slovenian PM, and the Slovenian Bishop's Conference.
- http://www.pagina12.com.ar/diario/sociedad/3-22980-2003-07-20.html El milagro del padre Pedro (spanish)
- http://edant.clarin.com/diario/2009/03/23/sociedad/s-01882718.htm Un cura argentino que sabe cómo vencer a la pobreza (spanish)
- http://famvin.org/wiki/Pedro_Opeka Vincentian Encyclopedia: Pedro Opeka, CM
- http://famvin.org/en/archive/pedro-opeka-cm-named-member-of-the-french-legion-of-honor Pedro Opeka, CM named member of the French Legion of Honor
- Pedro Opeka: Treba je znati deliti!
- President decorates neurology professor and missionary
- Reporter.si - Misijonar Opeka bo predlagan za Nobelovo nagrado za mir
- Delo.si - Pedro Opeka bo kandidat za Nobelovo nagrado za mir
- RTVSLO.si - Vlada podprla nominacijo Pedra Opeke za Nobelovo nagrado
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Pedro Opeka.|
- Association "Friends of Padre Pedro"
- (French)Association "Friends of Padre Pedro" - France
- "Pedro Opeka, the good friend", documentary film by Jože Možina, TV Slovenija
- Father Pedro compared with Mother Theresa. Metro (Associated Metro Limited), London, September 25, 2009.