Skip to content

Importance Of Religious Freedom Essay Contest 2016

In 2015-2016 an international essay contest on "Religious Freedom in Southeast Asia and the West" was jointly organized by the Institute for Global Engagement and the Leimena Institute, and supported by a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The contest was open to any citizen of a Southeast Asian country, and the deadline for receiving submissions was July 1, 2016. Twenty-nine entries were received, and each was carefully evaluated by a panel of five judges: Jakob Tobing (Leimena Institute), Eugene Tan (Singapore Management University), Paul Marshall (Leimena Institute and Hudson Institute), Robert Joustra (Redeemer University College), and Dennis Hoover (Institute for Global Engagement). First-place essays will be published in a future issue of IGE's The Review of Faith & International Affairs.

The judges have now completed their work and we are pleased to announce the winners:



The panel of judges was particularly encouraged by the level of student interest in the contest, and gave four additional student essays an “Honorable Mention” designation:

Please forward all questions and inquiries to

Tags: RFIA


Dr. John Templeton Jr. of the Class of ’58 has collaborated with George School in establishing a Quaker Leaders Essay Contest with a $4,000 award for the winning essay. This annual contest, open to George School students only, invites students to write and submit a biographical essay about a leader from the first one hundred years of Quaker history. The essays are judged on the basis of their historical accuracy, use of original sources, analysis of the leader’s perspective and impact, presentation of the leader as a role model within the Religious Society of Friends, and presentation of the leader as an agent of change. View the guidelines for the contest.

Quaker Leaders Essay Winners

Victoriah Verna ’18 (2016-2017)
In her essay, “George Fox: A Radical Advocate, Dissenter, and Friend,” Victoriah writes “He was a warrior in the time of religious persecution, an advocate for the equal treatment of blacks and Indians, as well as a promoter of gender equality between men and women—all during the conservative seventeenth century.” Read Victoriah’s essay.

Addie Gerszberg ’18 (2015-2016)
In her essay, “John Woolman: A Friend to Many,” Addie Gerszberg ’18 writes “John Woolman was a leader for everyone, he was one of the first people to say that slavery wasn’t consistent with Christianity, he was one of the first to stop buying anything made from slave labor, also, by stressing equality, he said that black lives mattered an amazing three centuries before the modern movement was formed. If there were ever a Quaker who lived who exemplified letting his life speak by embracing his faith, John Woolman is a man worth looking up to.” Read Addie’s essay.

Eesha Sheth ’16 (2015-2016)
“It is often said that it takes bravery for an individual to stand up to their enemies, but even more to stand up to their peers. Benjamin Lay did both, unapologetically and fiercely. With no concern for his status within the community, Lay fiercely and unapologetically spoke his truth. This fierce conviction in his views and willingness to defend them to both enemies and peers is just part of what made Lay’s impact on the Religious Society of Friends and on activists today so profound,” writes Eesha Sheth ’16 in her essay “Benjamin Lay: The Irrepressible Prophet.” Read Eesha’s essay.

Mimi Murdock ’17 (2014-2015)
In her essay about Anthony Benezet Mimi Murdock ’17 writes, “Anthony Benezet was a profoundly compassionate Quaker who had ideas about equality that would eventually change the world. He was a scholar, a teacher, and a philanthropist, but he was known most for his help in the Abolition movement. Anthony Benezet was not only a main founder of Quakerism, but a man whose beliefs, even today, are thought to be true representation of humanity.” Read Mimi’s essay.

Matt Simon ’15 (2014-2015)
“The faith and theology associated with Quakerism represented the keystone to the rebellion and advocacy for religious freedom that defined Mary Barrett Dyer. The importance of her life can be seen through the effect she had on both the Society of Friends as well as laws governing religious freedom in the United States,” writes Matt Simon ’15 in his essay “Mary Barrett Dyer: A Paragon of Faith and Civil Disobedience.” Read Matt’s essay.

Claire Conte ’16 (2013-2014)
In her essay, “Power That Speaks In Her: Margaret Askew Fell-Fox,” Claire writes “Truly great leaders are distinguished by their hard work, the devotion that they show to their causes, and their ability to see possibilities in ways others may not have considered. While not nearly as well known as some famous revolutionaries, civil justice pioneers, or presidents, Margaret Askew Fell-Fox dedicated her life to a cause in the same manner they did.” Read Claire’s essay.

Michaela Adams ’13 (2012-2013)
In her essay, “Conduct is More Convincing Than Language,” Michaela writes “Examining the factual events in the life of John Woolman is both a dull and unhelpful way to understand his influence and importance. It is not what he did that is important, rather it is why he did it. His method and attitude toward ministry is what makes Woolman such a valuable man both in Quaker history and when examining our own lives.” Read Michaela’s essay.

Andrew Willett ’13 (2012-2013)
In his essay, “Mary Dyer: A Light Lifted Up For Quaker Faith,” Andrew writes “Mary Dyer possessed the capacity to faithfully offer up her life to the Light. She hoped from this sheer faith that her martyrdom would advance the Quaker movement in both the New England colonies and the world. Mary Dyer’s perseverance in adversity inspired me, and her story and legacy will forever light my life; her unabiding resolve certainly played a role in securing civil freedoms for both myself and others.” Read Andrew’s essay.

Rosie Robinson ’12 (2011-2012)
In her essay, “For the Sake and Service of the Light: A Reflection on the Life and Work of Margaret Fell,” Rosie writes, “In her life and her ministry, Margaret Fell’s spirituality shone forth and, throughout all her sufferings, meant more to her than any riches. From the first moments that she heard George Fox speak of the Light of Christ, her willingness to follow that Light came forth, despite opposition, in her desire to give her home and all her worldly goods to the service of Quakerism, even at the cost of imprisonment and estrangement from her friends.” Read Rosie’s essay.

Willa Rowan ’11 (2010-2011)
In her essay, “Benjamin Lay: Speaking Truth to Power,” Willa writes, “We can never know how the anti-slavery movement would have been different had Benjamin Lay not been a part of it. He was widely disliked for his unorthodox demonstrations and even written off as deranged…However radical his methods were, he defied the criticisms of all around him, unswervingly followed what he believed to be just, and spoke truth to power.” Read Willa’s essay.

Haley Schools ’10 (2009-2010)
In her essay, “John Woolman as an Agent of Change,” Haley writes that Woolman was “kind-spoken because he acknowledged that overcoming sin, even the sin of slaveholding, took time. Nevertheless, he also knew that overcoming sin took perseverance and effort, and thus, over his lifetime he completed many ministerial journeys in order to spread his belief that slavery was wrong.” Read Haley’s essay.

John Keenan ’09 (2008-2009)
In his essay, “John Woolman: Spiritual Catalyst of the American Abolition Movement,” John describes John Woolman’s motivation for speaking out against slavery, “the essence of Woolman’s motivation as an abolitionist was identical to his motivation as a Quaker…Every act of diplomacy, every slave freed, and every ‘random’ act of kindness was encouraged by the spirit for Friends and aimed toward enriching it.”  Read John’s essay.

Sharon Kaziunas ’07 (2006-2007)
In her essay, “Mary Fisher: A Woman of Fortitude and Faith,” Sharon writes, “Mary Fisher was one of those fervent seventeenth century Friends who was instrumental in the expansion of early Quakerism. In her extraordinary life, she braved danger, persecution, and suffering with an adventurous spirit and indomitable courage as she traveled from her humble origins in northern England to go on a legendary missionary journey to the very court of the Emperor of the Ottoman Empire. Fisher’s remarkable faith and sensitivity to the Spirit of God made her one of the most celebrated and respected preachers and missionaries not only in her own era, but also in all of Quaker history.” Read Sharon’s essay.

Ruben Davis ’06 (2005-2006)
In his essay, “John Woolman: The Quiet Advocate,” Ruben describes John Woolman as “disarmingly humble in speech, especially for such an outspoken man.” Ruben states, “This humility forced people, Quakers and non-Quakers, to listen to the unpleasant truths he had to offer, though it was the passion behind his messages that made people change their minds.”  Read Ruben’s essay.

Quihong Hunsicker ’06 (2005-2006)
In her essay, “John Woolman’s Call Lives On,” Qiuhong reflects, “The legacy Woolman left behind is a marvelous call to all of us as citizens of this world. It is a message calling us to look into our conscience, to turn away from any wickedness and to identify the goodness within us, so that we can be effective motivators in promoting changes to make our world a better place.” Read Quihong’s essay.