Social Problems Today Essay Contest

The 2017 Bethany Peace Essay Contest—Where Do You See Peace?—invites aspiring writers to tell the story of a community, a person, or a movement that is addressing injustice and building peace in our world today. The contest is open to seminary, graduate school, college, and high school students who are fully enrolled in a program en route to a degree, and prizes of $2000, $1000, and $500 will be awarded for the top three essays.

This year’s topic is of the utmost relevance as our world struggles with racism, poverty, war, displacement, and so much more. Some have denied the severity of these problems while many face the brunt of these issues in their own lives. The need for justice and peace are great, but those working towards peace are often ignored and resisted, and thus these problems continue to plague our world.

The prophet Jeremiah was familiar with this challenge of injustice and empathy when he chided the powerful in Israel for saying, “‘Peace! Peace!’, when there was no peace” (Jer 6:14). Attuned to the injustices of his time, Jeremiah wouldn’t allow his people to get away with covering up these problems, because God was capable of healing these wounds and bringing the people true peace (Jer 33:6).

It is hoped that writers will creatively and passionately address questions like the following: Where do you see people following Jeremiah’s call to resolve injustices, heal wounds, and build true peace in our world? What problems are the most pressing for our world to solve and bring peace with justice? Where do you see these problems and the other problems of our world and society being addressed? A focus on pressing issues such as racism, poverty, and war are encouraged, but a focus on other social issues deserving attention are welcome.

The contest is underwritten by the Jennie Calhoun Baker Endowment, funded by John C. Baker in honor of his mother. Described as a “Church of the Brethren woman ahead of her time,” Jennie was known for actively pursuing peacemaking by meeting the needs of others, providing community leadership, and upholding the value of creative and independent thinking in education. John Baker, a philanthropist for peace with a distinguished career in higher education, and his wife had also helped establish the peace studies program at Bethany with an earlier endowment gift.

Scott Holland, Slabaugh Professor of Theology and Culture and director of peace and cross-cultural studies at Bethany, oversees the contest, assisted by MA student Bryan Hanger. Ecumenical partnership also helps make the contest possible, with peace church representatives serving as judges along with Holland.

Essays can be submitted between March 1 and 27, 2017, and results will be announced by the end of April 2017. Winning essays will appear in selected publications of the Church of the Brethren, Friends, and Mennonite faith communities. Guidelines, terms, and submission procedures are available. Contact Bryan Hanger at for additional information.

About the Author:

Jenny Williams


Citra Laras Kinanti (Rara), IYLP 2006, won the Legacy Essay Contest for Indonesian Participants. Her winning essay succinctly expresses the impact that attending Legacy International’s Indonesian program had on her life and her life decisions. She writes, as follows:

Rara receives Certificate

“Participating in IYLP 2006 was one of the most significant turning points in my life. It was my first encounter with the western world, a memorable embrace to the new environment with a whole different set of culture, perspectives, and ways of life.
I also had the chance to have a close interaction with other Indonesians from different parts of the country most of which are strict Moslems that I barely meet back in my hometown. It was a great learning experience that taught me to take differences as a blessing instead of an obstacle in life and changed me to be an open-minded person with deeper mutual and cultural understanding. Seeing the difference between the United States and  Indonesia in terms of developments also grew personal awareness towards social issues within me and it motivated me to make contributions to my country.

Rara and fellow graduates

IYLP, I continued my study in Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, Japan. It is a richly diverse environment where I had the chance to make friends from more than 90 countries all over the world, learning new cultures, and experience living on the other part of the world. Throughout my four years in Japan I have been focusing my non-academic activities in spreading the awareness about the importance of English. I have participated in numerous English camps as tutors, teaching assistants, and program directors both in Japan and South Korea. I have worked with more than 1,000 kids in total and I am currently working with a small organization to organize another English Camp in Indonesia.

Indonesia is currently facing remarkably intense inter-religious problems with endless competitions between Moslems and Christians, the rises of radical Islamist groups such as the notorious Front of Defenders of Islam (FPI) and Mosque of Ahmadiyah that often ignite the fire by doing anarchic activities in the name of Islam, let alone the undercover organizations that often give wrong doctrines for people in rural areas. It is undoubtedly a serious obstacle for Indonesia because development would be impossible without unity.

Rara in S. Korean English Camp

In order to contribute in pursuing betterment for my country, I would focus on providing equal access to education for everyone because I personally believe that education and the opportunity to see the world has the power to shape a wiser individual and English is definitely one of the main keys of all. I would continue my master study on International Education so that I can make a better education system in Indonesia and my goal is to establish an NGO that provides opportunities for kids to join intercultural discussions where they can have a better look about what’s going on beyond the national boundaries.

With proper education and understanding about the world, people would not be easily misled, they would have more tolerance towards differences, and I believe it can eventually further decrease the inter-religious conflicts in Indonesia and make the way for a better national development.

My dream may sound vague at the moment but quoting from John F. Kennedy, “Don’t ask what your country can do for you. Ask instead what you can do for your country”, and I believe it is a little something I can do for my country. “…Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do” – Steve Jobs.


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