The Brazilian Dominican Frei Betto Wins UNESCO/José Martí Award for 2013

Frei Betto

Friar Carlos Alberto Libânio Christo (popularly known as Frei Betto) has just received the UNESCO/José Martí award for 2013. This is in recognition of his opposition to all forms of discrimination, injustice and exclusion and the promotion of a culture of peace and human rights, as indicated by UNESCO.

The Executive Board of UNESCO created the award in 1994 at the initiative of the government of Cuba to sensitize decision makers on equality and human rights. The award, named after the politician José Martí, recognizes outstanding contributions of individuals or organizations to the unity and integration of Latin America and the Caribbean based on respect for cultural traditions and human values.

The Director General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, gave the award to the Brazilian Dominican friar for his contributions towards the building of a universal culture of peace, social justice and human rights in Latin America and the Caribbean. He was chosen from the recommendation of an international jury. The award is worth 5,000 US dollars.

Frei Betto was born in Belo Horizonte (Brazil) in 1944. He entered the Dominican Order when he was twenty years old and a student of journalism. During Brazil's military dictatorship, he was jailed on two occasions; first in 1964 and the second between 1969 and 1973. He was jailed by those loyal to the guerrilla organization, National Liberation Action (ALN) led by Carlos Marighella. After he was released, he worked for five years in a slum in the city of Vitoria. He has authored more than fifty books which have been translated into several languages and he has receive several honours for his works as an educator, writer and theologian,

During the eighties, he was widely consulted on church-state relations in various countries such as Nicaragua, Cuba, China, the Soviet Union, Poland and Czechoslovakia. Later, he was appointed onto the board of the Swedish Foundation for Human Rights.

As an adherent of liberation theology and pastoral and militant social movements, he was a special adviser to the Brazilian President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, from 2003 to 2004 and was the coordinator of the Social Mobilization for "Zero Hunger".