The slight, soft-spoken woman onstage called on the media and the rest of the country to let go of narrow-minded nationalism.

“This is a time to fight for democratisation. We have to respect each and every ethnic (group) as a human being,” beseeched Mon Mon Myat, whose meek bearing veils her ferocity as a powerful freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker.

It was refreshing to hear these words in a public forum in Myanmar because – let’s face it – such sentiments have been sorely lacking.

Since religious conflict erupted June 2012, killing at least 240 people and displacing more than 140,000, mostly Muslims, Myanmar has been engulfed in hate speech.

Vitriolic and inflammatory comments targeting Muslims, who make up a small fraction of the country, have become worryingly common on blogs, web forums and Facebook pages. Internet access is low – some estimates say only 0.2 percent of the population is online – but young people, as well as a large Burmese diaspora worldwide, are increasingly using social media to share news and opinions.