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Burma's Identity Crisis

  • Senate Russell Building (SR-385) 2 Constitution Avenue Northeast Washington, DC, 20002 United States (map)

Burma is a multi-ethnic, religiously diverse society that has endured more than 70 years of conflict. In 2010, the leader of Burma’s democracy movement, Aung San Suu Kyi, was released from house arrest and elected to parliament, leading many to think a new era of democratic reform would be ushered in by the National League of Democracy. However, the continuing power of the military and the rise of extremist Buddhist nationalism has led to the genocide of the Rohingyas. The violence has impacted both Muslims and Christians across the country. Furthermore, the military has continued its brutal assaults on the Kachin and other ethnic groups in northern Burma, and fragile ceasefires in other parts of the country offer no lasting peace.

CSW has just published a new report detailing these issues titled, Burma’s Identity Crisis: How ethno-religious nationalism has led to persecution, crimes against humanity and genocide. The report’s author Benedict Rogers, CSW East Asia Team Leader and RFI Senior Fellow, will present his findings alongside Kyaw Win, Founder and Executive Director of the Burma Human Rights Network; Salai Bawi Lian Mang, co-founder and Executive Director of the Chin Human Rights Organisation; and Timothy Shah, Vice President for Strategy and International Research of the Religious Freedom Institute. Other speakers will also join the discussion.

Light lunch provided

Additional Resources

Burma Landscape Report


12:00-12:10 PM | Pre Event Reception

12:10-12:15 PM | Introduction by Timothy Shah, Vice President for Strategy and International Research, Religious Freedom Institute (RFI)

12:15-12:35 PM | Burma’s Identity Crisis and the Threat of Ethno-religious Nationalism by Benedict Rogers, East Asia Team Leader, Christian Solidarity Worldwide and Senior Fellow, RFI South and Southeast Asia Action Team

12:35 PM | Panel Introduction by Benedict Rogers

12:40-1:45 PM | Panel Discussion: Burma’s Identity Crisis

  • Kyaw Win, Founder and Executive Director of the Burma Human Rights Network

  • Salai Bawi Lian Mang, co-founder and Executive Director of the Chin Human Rights Organization

  • Gum San Nsang, co-founder and President of Kachin Alliance

  • Benedict Rogers

    Moderator: Timothy Shah

1:45-2:00 PM | Post-Event Reception



Gum San Nsang is a specialist in human rights and conflict in Kachin State, Burma. He co-founded and serves as President of Kachin Alliance, a community funded human rights advocacy group based in Washington, DC. For over 13 years, he has been advocating for the rights of Kachin people. His multi-cultural background with fluency in Burmese and Jinghpaw and frequent travel to the region enable him to understand and analyze foreign policies from both perspectives. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Finance from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.


Salai Bawi Lian Mang is the founder and Executive Director of the Chin Human Rights Organization, and is a recipient of the NGO Leadership and Excellence Awards at world Marketing Summit 2013. A participant of the student uprising of 1988 in Burma, he fled the country following the military crackdown on prodemocracy activists that year. In 1995 Bawi Lian founded the Chin Human Rights Organization on the India-Burma border to document human rights abuses perpetrated against his fellow ethnic Chin people by the Burmese military regime. Over the past two decades, the work of CHRO under his leadership has kept the international community informed about the situation of Chin Christian minority in Burma. Salai Bawi Lian has lobbied the United Nations General Assembly and testified before the US Congressional hearings on human rights and democracy in Burma. In 2012 Salai Bawi Lian Mang return to Burma after 24 years of exile and actively participate in Burma peace process.


Benedict Rogers is a human rights activist specialising in Asia and is East Asia Team Leader at the international human rights organisation CSW. He focuses particularly on Burma, North Korea, China and Indonesia. He is the author of six books, including Burma: A Nation at the Crossroads (2012, Random House) and Than Shwe: Unmasking Burma's Tyrant (2010, Silkworm), and several major reports including Burma’s Identity Crisis: How ethno-religious nationalism has led to persecution, crimes against humanity and genocide. He is a regular contributor to international media including The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, The Spectator, The Diplomat and Huffington Post and has appeared on BBC, CNN, al-Jazeera and other television and radio stations. He is co-founder and deputy chairman of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, founder and Chair of Hong Kong Watch, a trustee of the Chin Human Rights Organisation and a Senior Fellow at the RFI.


Timothy Samuel Shah serves as Vice President for Strategy and International Research and the Director of the South and Southeast Asia Action Team of the Religious Freedom Institute. He is based in Bangalore, India, and serves as non-resident Research Professor of Government at Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion. Until mid-2018, he served as Director for International Research at the Religious Freedom Research Project at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. He is a political scientist specializing in religious freedom as well as in the broad relationship between religious and political dynamics in theory, history, and contemporary practice. He has directed or co-directed numerous grant-funded collaborative research initiatives, including a Pew-funded study of evangelical Protestantism and politics that generated three volumes with Oxford University Press; a Harvard University-based study of religion and global politics; a study supported by the Templeton-funded Religion and Innovation in Human Affairs research initiative on Christianity and freedom; a multi-year standing seminar on religion and religious freedom and their relationship to human nature and human experience, which led to a volume published by Cambridge; and a study he co-directed with Daniel Philpott on contemporary Christian responses to persecution, which also led to a volume published by Cambridge. Shah is author of Even if There is No God: Hugo Grotius and the Secular Foundations of Modern Political Liberalism (Oxford University Press, forthcoming in 2019); Religious Freedom: Why Now? Defending an Embattled Human Right (Witherspoon Institute, 2012); and, with Monica Duffy Toft and Daniel Philpott, God’s Century: Resurgent Religion and Global Politics (W.W. Norton and Company, 2011). He is also editor of numerous volumes, including, with Daniel Philpott, Under Caesar’s Sword: Christian Responses to Persecution (Cambridge University Press, 2018); with Jack Friedman and Homo Religiosus?: Exploring the Roots of Religion and Religious Freedom in Human Experience (Cambridge University Press, 2018). His articles on religion, religious freedom, and global politics, in history and in the contemporary world, have appeared in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, the Journal of Law and Religion, the Journal of Democracy, the Review of Politics, Fides et Historia, and elsewhere.


Kyaw Win is a human rights activist, born and brought up in Rangoon, Burma (Myanmar). Kyaw Win graduated with a BA (Hons) in Business Management with an Accounting pathway from the University of Westminster in London. In 2009 Kyaw Win moved to UK and joined the Burmese Muslim Association, where he became head of the Information Committee and obtained a position as General Secretary. In 2012 Kyaw Win founded the Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN) in London. In 2015 the organization was officially registered in London as a legal entity. In his position as Executive Director of BHRN he leads several different teams inside of Myanmar who are documenting human rights violations, violation of freedom of religion, the spread of hate speech and anti-Muslim pogroms. BHRN is operating throughout Myanmar including in Rakhine State, where rights violations are most egregious. BHRN publishes press releases, reports and statements on developing situations while using an experienced and trusted ground network to ensure reliable information that helps raise awareness of the persecution of the Rohingya People and other minorities. Under his leadership, BHRN has expanded across Burma and become a reliable source of information for the international community.  Kyaw Win is a well-reputed activist in the UK and became a chairman of an organization called Justice for the Rohingya Minority (JFRM). He has given several public talks to raise awareness of the plight of the Rohingya and other Burmese Muslims at LSE University London, Oxford University, UK Parliament and the EU Parliament. He has been interviewed by Al Jazeera, ABC News, Sky New, BBC World Service, and TRT World and participated in debates on Burma politics and religious persecution in Burma. Kyaw Win is the author of several articles on these issues, including pieces features in The Asia Times, Huffington Post, EU Observer and New Mandela, which examined the spread of religious persecution in Myanmar and its root causes.

Co-Sponsored With

Christian Solidarity Worldwide

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CSW is a human rights organisation specialising in freedom of religion or belief, and as Christians we stand with everyone facing injustice because of their religion or belief.