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2016 Youth Essay Contest

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We are pleased to announce a new essay competition for young people ages 12 to 21 to support the principles of religious freedom, tolerance, and love for all humanity without exception regardless of belief. A non-profit public charity founded in 2001 in Cleveland, Ohio, and currently based in New York, the Institute increases its worldwide outreach ( to youth.

An international panel of Institute advisors will choose the winning essays, which will be published on the Institute’s website and included in a forthcoming book. Essays can vary in length but should be no longer than 1500 words, double-spaced, and written in English. Three competition cycles are planned with up to two prizes in each cycle (first prize US $1,000, second prize US $500). The due date for the first cycle is October 30, 2015.

We define love as follows: “When the happiness, well-being and security of another is as meaningful to you as your own, you love that person. Unlimited Love, often associated with spirituality and religions at their best, extends this love beyond our nearest and dearest, and beyond those who believe as we do, to all humanity based on our shared dignity and interdependence.”

Human progress requires a peaceful co-existence between religions, freedom of religion, and a respectful tolerance of individuals and groups with widely different beliefs, but recent world events demonstrate that these values cannot be taken for granted. Unfortunately, in some places around the world religious hatred is found in children as young as four years of age, and intolerance leading to religious persecution and violence is on the rise. We want to encourage youth to help us find a path to a future where Unlimited Love for all humanity replaces religious hatred, brutality, and violence.

The essay competition draws from one of the Guiding Questions which drive the Institute’s research strategy and collaborations, namely, “How can the major religions of the world come to abide in their various concepts of universal love, and practice love for all humanity rather than merely for those who adhere to a particular set of beliefs?”

The Institute invites youth to write essays that encourage all people and religions to abide by the principles of religious freedom, tolerance, and love for all humanity. Stories and reflections from personal experience can be a valuable part of the essay, including the motivations for speaking out through essay writing. The Institute offers a series of questions to spark imaginations, including:

  • If you were able to speak to a fellow young person in your own religion who advocated religious hatred, how would you engage him or her? What would motivate you to do so? What would you say, and how would you steer him or her to Unlimited Love?
  • If you were confronted with religious hatred from a fellow young person in a different religion how would you respond, and why?
  • Can religious arrogance and hatred be replaced by a spirituality of tolerance, equal respect, freedom, mutual appreciation, and love?
  • How might the spiritual principle of Unlimited Love be lived out and achieved in practice? Can it be shared and promoted within religious communities or even between different religious communities?
  • Could a religious toleration youth movement be developed across all religions worldwide? What tools might make this possible that were not available in the past?
  • What beliefs and practices in your own religious tradition (if you have one) can point youth in the direction of freedom, tolerance, and Unlimited Love? What positive role models exemplify the power of love in your tradition today, and what can we learn from them?