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‘To my brother Vladimir’: Priest and Nobel peace prize nominee writes to Putin

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FATHER Pedro Opeka

Mamyrael | AFP

Marzena Devoud - published on 03/08/22 - updated on 04/07/22

With his community of Akamasoa, in Madagascar, Father Pedro Opeka is one of those discreet and efficient peacemakers, working daily in the service of the poorest and most destitute. As the war in Ukraine rages on, he addresses an open letter to "his brother Vladimir Putin."

A Lazarist missionary in Madagascar, born in Argentina to a Slovenian family, Fr. Pedro Opeka has been nominated five times for the Nobel Peace Prize. Having worked for nearly 50 years for the poorest in Madagascar, this priest of edifying determination has built Akamasoa, a city of the poor, on the heights of Antananarivo, the country’s capital. This extraordinary place dedicated to the excluded and the disenfranchised is now home to 25,000 inhabitants. Akamasoa, the association that bears its name, has already helped 500,000 Malagasy.

Dismayed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, he spontaneously wrote and shared with friends and family an open letter to Vladimir Putin, addressing him, “my brother Vladimir.” The letter is sent in the rich spirit of fraternity that is very dear to him and that he practices on a daily basis. Fr. Opeka writes, “It is time to get out of the logic that divides the world into powerful and rich countries and vulnerable and poor countries. We are all citizens of our earth, all equal, all brothers and sisters and all responsible for building a better future for all the children of the world who will one day replace us and perpetuate life on earth,” he continued. Still believing that “every human being is my brother and sister,” Fr. Pedro implores Vladimir Putin to act to “stop the war and stop the massacre of innocent citizens.”

“We must stop believing that there are human beings more worthy than others,” he stressed, begging “his brother Vladimir” to stop the war, to renounce “dictatorship, lies, false appearances and duplicity.” He concluded by praying: “May God the Creator enlighten all the leaders of our planet earth to live in brotherhood, equality and freedom, which are the ideals of human dignity and human rights.

The complete letter of Father Pedro to his brother Vladimir Putin :

To my brother Vladimir Putin!

Brother Vladimir, we woke up this February 24 dismayed to see that you have declared war and launched an attack against the Ukrainian people, a sovereign people respectful of international rights and laws who never intended to attack Russia. The citizens of many countries felt great bitterness, sadness and shame at your insane act.

You, brother Vladimir, are the president of Russia, which so many people around the world love and respect for its history and deep spiritual roots. One wonders how it is possible that you want to impose by force on other nations the madness of recreating an Empire from another time. The only solution you have found in the grip of your drifting authority is to provoke a war in a surprising way, at 3 o’clock in the morning, taking your former brothers of the Soviet Union by surprise. One minute after your speech, a rain of shells and missiles fell on Ukraine.

One would think, listening to you, that this attack was aimed at a country threatening the whole world. But in reality, the Ukrainian people simply want to live in peace in their free and sovereign country. It is easy to compel Russian citizen soldiers, who would refuse to fight and thereby incur the penalty of accusing them of being traitors to the Fatherland, to attack and kill brothers and sisters of another nation under false pretences. Free men and women, humanists of our land, raise your voice to condemn this barbaric act against the Ukrainian people.

It is time to get out of the logic dividing the world into powerful and rich countries, against vulnerable and poor countries. We are all citizens of our earth, all equal, all brothers and sisters and all responsible for building a better future for all the children of the world who will one day replace us to perpetuate life on earth. We must stop believing that there are human beings more worthy than others.

We live in the 21st century and the weapons that humans have invented can destroy the earth. How can you, brother Vladimir, play with fire by balancing on a powder keg that can explode at any moment, generating total chaos that could wipe out our entire civilization. Where is the wisdom of the heroes, poets and writers who defended the ideals of all humanity against barbarism, tyranny and dictatorship?

May we, brother Vladimir, be more human, more respectful, more honest and more truthful, living in the truth. Because only the truth will make us free and brotherly. How can we accept today the dramatic death imposed on Ukrainian or Russian soldiers. All these soldiers have families, have brothers and sisters who will mourn them if they die. I think of the Russian soldiers who will not know why they died or why they were killed.

It is never too late to come to your senses and join those human beings who seek to live in justice, brotherhood and Peace. This war that you have started is an irresponsible act, harmful to humanity. By war we will never be able to solve human conflicts, it is from now on through dialogue and diplomacy that all countries on this earth exchange. The mediation of third countries can always help to solve problems and potential conflicts, it is always possible to find peaceful and fair solutions. For this, respect is needed, as well as the idea that we all belong to one and only Human Family.

Our common humanity unites us above all ideologies, all religions and all ideas of race. Since we embody one humanity, with its differences, free and equal. Our diversity is a richness that makes life more beautiful, in respect, sharing and brotherhood.

Our common humanity unites us above all ideologies, all religions and all ideas of race. Since we embody one humanity, with its differences, free and equal. Our diversity is a richness that makes life more beautiful, in respect, sharing and brotherhood.

Brother Vladimir, return to the cradle of the Human Family and be a brother who builds the Common Good and solidarity so that all human beings of future generations on earth can live in dignity and equality of rights and duties! War destroys, sows hatred and separates peoples for centuries before they can be reunited and work together. Wouldn’t the money spent on sophisticated weapons in the service of death and terror be more useful in the service of the vital needs of those left behind by humanity by building more housing, schools, hospitals and access to water for all. I have always believed that every human being is my brother and sister. How can I convince you, brother Putin, to stop the war and to stop the massacre of innocent citizens!

Please, brother Vladimir, stop the war, give up dictatorship, lies, false appearances and duplicity. Let us be true, just, united and free together! May God the Creator enlighten all the rulers of the earth to live in brotherhood, equality and freedom, which are the ideals of human dignity and human rights.

Father Pedro

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