Faith Leaders

Faith Leaders

March 2, 2012
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United States faith leaders sent a letter to UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova expressing their opposition to the UNESCO-Obiang prize.


Dear Ms. Bokova,

As United States faith leaders we write to express our opposition to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s life sciences prize funded by President Obiang of Equatorial Guinea. 

Our concern stems from uncertainty over the source of the prize’s funding. Part of our mission as faith leaders is to look after the rights and needs of all individuals, including the world’s most impoverished. We are deeply troubled by the widespread poverty that persists in Equatorial Guinea in spite of the fact that its government has benefitted from substantial oil revenues since the mid-1990s. We are especially aggrieved by the secrecy and alleged corruption of the government of President Obiang. Here in the United States, the Department of Justice has moved to seize more than $70 million in assets from President Obiang’s son. Documents made public as part of that investigation portray in great detail a regime in which corruption appears to be deeply entrenched, and in which members of President Obiang’s government allegedly have used extortion, theft, and embezzlement of public funds for personal profit. We understand that ongoing investigations into corruption by Equatoguinean government officials are occurring in France and Spain as well.

We firmly believe that money accrued through corrupt means is money that has no place in a humanitarian prize. The ongoing investigations into alleged corruption by members and associates of the Obiang family raise serious concerns about the source of the funding that President Obiang has provided to UNESCO to establish this prize. UNESCO should instead ask President Obiang to dedicate the prize money to addressing the needs of the many poor and marginalized people in his own country.

We urge you to halt any action that would make use of the prize money. We also urge UNESCO to establish rigorous procedures for accepting donations and naming prizes to ensure a thorough review of all past and future prizes.



Rev. Dr. Ken Brooker Langston


Disciples Justice Action Network


Susie Johnson


Washington Office, United Methodist Women


Jean Stokan


Sisters of Mercy of the Americas- Institute Justice Team


Jim Winkler

General Secretary

General Board of Church & Society of The United Methodist Church

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