South & Southeast Asia Action Team 

This region is home to one-third of the world’s populations. It is diverse linguistically, culturally, and religiously. The two focus countries of our Action Team – India and Indonesia – represent the world’s largest Hindu and Muslim countries. The region presents both extreme challenges for religious freedom and useful examples of pluralistic harmony. We are working to identify those challenges and work together with local communities and organizations to put concrete solutions into action.

Director: Timothy Samuel Shah
Associate Director: Rebecca Samuel Shah
Members: Tehmina Arora, Yaqoob Khan Bangash, Chad Bauman, Robert Hefner, Farahnaz Ispahani, Paul Marshall, Daniel Philpott, Benedict Rogers, Nilay Saiya
Projects: Under Caesar's Sword

"Under Caesar’s Sword" is a three-year, collaborative global research project that investigates how Christian communities respond when their religious freedom is severely violated. Research will be centered around three core questions:

  • How do Christian communities respond to repression?

  • Why do they choose the responses that they do?

  • What are the results of these responses?

The findings of this research project are disseminated and used to inform advocacy and assistance work on behalf of Christians and other religious minorities across the globe.

The Under Caesar's Sword project is a joint initiative of the Religious Freedom Institute, the Center for Ethics and Culture at the University of Notre Dame, and the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University.

To learn more about the project visit:

Director: Timothy Samuel Shah


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. Tim is widely recognized as a leading authority on the history, meaning, and value of religious freedom throughout the world. 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 and his wife Rebecca (also a member of the RFI team) have extensive experience in India, where they will establish an RFI office. Tim recently spearheaded a multi-year research project on Christianity’s indispensable contributions to the development and diffusion of religious freedom, and led a similar project on worldwide Christian responses to persecution. His arguments to high level U.S. officials—that religious freedom acts as an antidote to religious terrorism—are increasingly employed in official analyses of religion and foreign policy.

He is author of Even if There is No God: Hugo Grotius and the Secular Foundations of Modern Political Liberalism (Oxford University Press, forthcoming in 2017) and, with Monica Duffy Toft and Daniel Philpott, of God’s Century: Resurgent Religion and Global Politics (W.W. Norton and Company, 2011). Tim is the Director for International Research at the Religious Freedom Research Project at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs; Research Professor of Government at Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion. His Ph.D. is from Harvard.

Associate Director: Rebecca Samuel Shah

Becky Shah.jpg

Rebecca Samuel Shah serves as Senior Fellow and Associate Director of the South and Southeast Asia Action Team for the Religious Freedom Institute. A pioneering scholar of the impact of religious belief and practice on the social and economic lives of poor women in the Global South, Shah currently serves as Research Professor at Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion, where she is the Principal Investigator for the Religion and Economic Empowerment Project (REEP), funded by the Templeton Religion Trust. Born and raised in Bangalore, India, she holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Economics and Economic History and a Master’s of Science in Demography, both from the London School of Economics. She is also an associate scholar with Georgetown’s Religious Freedom Project, and is Project Leader of the Holy Avarice Project on religion and modern capitalism at Georgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs. From 1998 to 2002, Shah served as a Research Analyst with the World Bank’s Human Development Network.  

Intern: Sara Hibbs


Intern: Shelly Novo


Sara Hibbs is currently a student in the Baylor in Washington D.C. Program where she is an intern with RFI’s South and South-East Asia Action Team and the Center for Religious Freedom Education. Hibbs is a senior at Baylor University majoring in International Studies, and she has been a research assistant for Dr. Bryon Johnson, director of Baylor University’s Institute for the Study of Religion. Last summer, she participated in the American Enterprise Institute’s Summer Honors Program. She became interested in religious freedom in South and South-East Asia after reading a book about the interaction between Muslims, Hindus, and Christians living together in the slums of India. After graduation, she hopes to work for a non-profit that focuses on international religious freedom.


Shelly Novo works as an intern for RFI’s South and Southeast Asia Action Team and the Center for Religious Freedom Education. As a rising junior at Biola University pursuing a degree in Political Science with a minor in Journalism, Shelly is passionate about engaging in dialogue surrounding the philosophy and politics of religious freedom. Her current interests include religion, politics, and the distribution of news in Asia. After graduation, Shelly intends to pursue non-profit work or political journalism.