Hizmet Essay Contest winners for 2014 were recently awarded their prizes. Mary E. Cole, The Ohio State University won in the Graduate category while Martine A. Gaetan, University of Maryland won in the undergraduate category.

The Hizmet Essay Contest is an annual contest series that encourages research on the Hizmet movement as well as the works of the Turkish Islamic scholar, Fethullah Gulen. The contest aims to motivate individuals to think critically about issues that affect the international society and, how to tackle these important issues from a Hizmet perspective.

Individuals researched the various works of Fethullah Gulen and the activities of Hizmet institutions both locally and abroad, with the purpose of identifying how the Hizmet movement contributes to the solution of a particular issue on an individual, societal and global level.

The Hizmet Movement, which derives its name from the word “service”, has established hundreds of educational, civic service organizations and institutions in over 160 countries, who are active in the areas of peacebuilding, conflict resolution, intercultural-interfaith dialogue, education, media and relief work. These organizations and institutions engage in various initiatives that foster inclusiveness, build community capacity, and create shared spaces.

The theme of the 2014 essay contest was: “The Hizmet Movement and Solutions to Today’s Problems”

The contestants were asked to evaluate the societal impact of the activities of the Hizmet movement and the ideas of Fethullah Gulen in solving the societal problems at the local, national or international levels. Contestants chose between a conceptual focus or a specific focus.


Martine Astier Gaetan was the Undergraduate Hizmet Essay Award Winner of 2014. Miss Gaetan is a current undergraduate at the University of Maryland, College Park with a double major in History and French. Her essay is titled: Why Hizmet, the Movement Inspired by Fethullah Gulen Can Answer the World’s Most Compelling Problem: Religious Violence.

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Her essay is organized into four integral parts in order to project her thesis statement. She began with reviewing some Hizmet projects that operate around the world including the focus of primary and secondary education and the critical relief efforts of KYM (Kimse Yok Mu). In order to achieve a conceptual focus, she places these activities in the context of thinking and interpretation of the Qur’an. To comprehend the importance of Hizmet as a global movement it is essential to place this school of though in the larger context of trend in Islam, highlighting a key concept in which Hocaefendi Gülen’s ideas differ dramatically with other prominent Islamic schools of thought. To conclude, she analyzed some of the leader’s recent statements about radical Islam to demonstrate how important his approach is to world security and stability.

“I sincerely believe that Hizmet, the movement Inspired by Fethullah Gülen, can answer the world’s most compelling problem: religious violence inspired by a false reading of the Qur’an. As a result of over 30 years of practical experience in bringing people together, advancing peace and interfaith dialog, promoting education, and implementing charity, this movement understands West and East, and has allies all over the world. Hizmet, if it keeps faithful to its source of inspiration and strength, has the power to continue changing the world, at this crucial time, God willing.” 

You can read the full essay here

Mary Elizabeth Cole was the Graduate Hizmet Award Winner of the 2014 contest. Miss Cole is a current Graduate Teaching Associate and PhD student in the Department of Anthropology with the Ohio State University in Columbus. Her essay is titled: Transforming Altruism from Selfish into Sacrificial: How Reciprocity with God Inspires Extraordinary Service in the Hizmet Movement.

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Her essay is organized into five parts in order to support her ideas of how altruism acts can be transformed from a concept so self centered to sacrificial acts. “To explain sacrificial behavior that is not ultimately self-benefiting, we must consider what these individuals share philosophically. They are all members of the Hizmet movement and followers of the teachings of Fethullah Gülen…Gülen inspires his followers to make extraordinary sacrifices of service by adjusting humanity’s typical expectations about altruism. Human naturally take a selfish view of altruism, expecting to be repaid in full for their favors by the humans they help. Gülen instead points humanity towards sacrificial altruism, in which humans are already obligated to reciprocate the goodness of life bestowed by God. Since all humans equally owe God this service towards other humans, all people have a duty to behave altruistically without consideration of the return on their investment. Hizmet members thereby are capable of making extraordinary sacrifices to spread the freedom from poverty, freedom from ignorance, and freedom to believe.”

She concludes her essay by saying, “The risk of any sacrificial altruism is that the beneficiary, once freed, will not choose to do good. This risk is especially high with populations bearing deep wounds from long histories of ethnic and religious tensions. Yet by shunning violence and promoting education, Hizmet has succeeded in teaching people how to talk to each other. Perhaps this shows that, although humans are by nature selfish, in the spirit we may all have a sense of the service we owe to God.”

You can read the full essay here

2015 Topics coming soon!