Ljubljana – The only thing Slovenian politicians and religious leaders seem to agree these days is the nomination of Slovenian missionary Pedro Opeka for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize. Opeka, referred to as missionary of the garbage people, has dedicated his life to helping the people living in rubbish dumps of Madagascar’s capital Antananarivo.
MEP Lojze Peterle of the New Slovenia (NSi) told the press on Monday that he had been working on a nomination for Opeka for a year. This week, support was voiced by everybody from the opposition Positive Slovenia (PS), to the government and the Catholic Church.
PS deputy Roman Jakič sent a letter to Thorbjorn Jagland, the Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, earlier this week, labelling Opeka “one of the greatest modern-time humanitarians and friends of the poor”.
On Friday, the government expressed support for the nomination, as well. Prime Minister Janez Janša said after the government session that there was a good chance of succeeding.
“If anybody deserves the Nobel Peace Prize it is Opeka for his years-long humanitarian activities in one of the poorest countries in the world,” said Janša.
He added that the nomination also enjoyed support among many foreign presidents and the heads of various respectable international institutions in Europe, Africa and other continents.
Among others, support for Opeka was also voiced by Australia’s Health Minister Tanya Plibersek, who is also of Slovenian descent. Opeka has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize before.
Moreover, Ljubljana Archbishop Anton Stres told the press today that he supported the nomination “with all my heart”. “I have had the privilege to see and admire his immeasurable dedication and sacrifice serving those abandoned by everybody.”
The archbishop said that Opeka had rescued tens of thousands of people from poverty and moral decay, giving them back hman dignity and helped them to social inclusion.
Pedro Opeka was born to Slovenian expats in Buenos Aires in 1948. He joined the Lazarian missionary society in 1966. He studied theology in Ljubljana, but completed his studies at the Catholic Institute in Paris. He has been living and working in Madagascar since 1976.
Opeka has earned international acclaim with his humanitarian project for the most marginalised group of population in Antananarivo. He has founded several humanitarian associations, rescuing thousands of children from the rubbish dumps.
He has received numerous recognitions for his work, including the Golden Order for Services from former President Danilo Türk.