The United Nations has recognized a Brazilian Dominican friar, Frei Betto, with a leading international prize for his “exceptional contribution” to building a universal culture of peace, social justice and human rights in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Irina Bokova, selected Frei Betto as the laureate of the 2013 UNESCO International José Martí Prize on the recommendation of an international jury, according to a UNESCO news release.

“The laureate was selected in recognition of his work as an educator, writer, and theologian; his opposition to all forms of discrimination, injustice and exclusion; and his promotion of a culture of peace and human rights,” the UN agency added in the news release.

The author of more than 50 books, Frei Betto was born Carlos Alberto Libânio Christo in the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte in 1944. He joined the Dominican Order at the age of 20 while studying journalism, and during the time of military dictatorship in Brazil, he was imprisoned twice, in 1964 and again from 1969 to 1973.

The UNESCO International José Martí Prize was created in November 1994 by the UN agency’s Executive Board at the initiative of the Government of Cuba. According to UNESCO, it rewards outstanding contributions by organizations and individuals to the cause of Latin American and Caribbean unity and integration, based on respect for cultural traditions and humanist values. It was also established to raise awareness of equity and human rights, particularly among decision-makers.

The prize will be awarded on 30 January in the Cuban capital of Havana.

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