In 2005, GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, formerly known as the Annuity Board, invested nearly $72 million in corporations doing business in Sudan. Government-sponsored genocide in Sudan has displaced millions and killed hundreds of thousands, many of whom were Christians.
According to the Dec. 31, 2005, AB Funds Trust Annual Report, GuideStone held $71,806,568 in shares of 10 foreign corporations with operations in Sudan. These corporations are included on a list of companies humanitarian and religious activists have targeted for divestment in order to stop the genocide. The investments are part of GuideStone’s International Equity Fund.
Despite recent attempts at reaching a peace agreement, the Janjaweed, the Sudanese government-supported armed militia, continue the mass slaughter, mutilation and rape of Sudanese people. Several states have passed or are considering legislation to remove their state pension investments from these companies, and several universities have already divested.
Each targeted company is foreign, since U.S. companies are forbidden to conduct business in Sudan. The divestment campaigns are modeled after the South African divestment over a decade ago that helped end apartheid.
Despite being exposed last year for 2004 investments in companies with business in Sudan, GuideStone invested even more heavily in these companies in 2005.
Last year’s Sudan-related holdings represented a more than 19 percent increased from 2004 investment amount of $60,227,319. While GuideStone completely divested in 2005 from two targeted companies–Oil & Natural Gas Corp. Limited (India) and Statoil ASA (Norway)—they added PetroChina. GuideStone remained invested in nine other companies with Sudan connections.
Richard Land, head of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, recently spoke at a rally in Washington, D. C. calling for action in the Darfur region of Sudan. In 1999, Land and other SBC leaders joined over 200 religious leaders in signing a document asking then-President Bill Clinton to take action to stop the genocide in Sudan. The document urged support for the divestment campaign against Talisman Energy, Inc. in Canada. This corporation is still targeted for divestment today and is one of the companies GuideStone owned shares of in 2005.
At the 2001 SBC annual meeting, messengers approved a resolution condemning the genocide in Sudan. It argued, “It is the duty of all Christians to come to the aid of the persecuted church.” The resolution urged “all Southern Baptist congregations to educate and alert their members to conditions in Sudan,” and the use of “every appropriate means to compel the government of Sudan to stop these vicious atrocities and ongoing violations of religious freedom.” A 2000 resolution also condemned the violence and a 1995 resolution listed Sudan among nations suppressing religious liberty.
According to GuideStone’s Web site: “Dedication to service and values is evident by our longstanding client relationships and Christian-based, socially screened mutual funds offered through GuideStone Funds.… Our products and services are designed to be competitive while adhering to Christian values.”
However, despite this policy and public statements by SBC leaders against the Sudanese genocide, GuideStone’s investments seem to aid those responsible.
Companies with business in Sudan that GuideStone owned shares of at the end of 2005: BP PLC (United Kingdom), BNP Paribas (France), Siemens AG (Germany), Hyundai Mobis (South Korea), Hyundai Motor CO (South Korea), PetroChina (China), Royal Dutch Petroleum (Netherlands), Talisman Energy Inc (Canada), Total SA (France), and UBS AG (Switzerland).
Brian Kaylor is communications specialist with the Baptist General Convention of Missouri.
Brian Kaylor is editor and president of Word&Way, associate director of Churchnet, and a contributing editor for EthicsDaily.com.