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KAREN refers to a wide range of ethnic hill tribes in eastern Myanmar(Burma). This diverse group of people speak over 50 different languages and represent many different religions including Buddhism, Christianity, Animism, and Islam among others. Even with their differences, they have remained united in their fight for freedom against the Burmese Military.
BURMA is the original name of the country now known as Myanmar. It was ruled by several different royal dynasties before being colonized by the British in the late 1800s. After the departure of the British in the 1940s, the country descended into war and chaos at the hands of the brutal military that seized control of the country against the will of the people.
Burma was renamed MYANMAR by the military in an attempt to force a single 'Myanma' culture on all within the country, seeking to erase the nearly 135 ethnic minority cultures around the country from existence. Although this remains the name of the country today, many official governments, including the Unite States, still refer to the country as Burma to delegitimize the genocidal tendencies related to the new name.
There are many names for the southeastern portion of Myanmar(Burma). The official government name is the Kayin State, which was changed from the Karen State years ago. When you talk with people there, though, you will undoubtably hear the word KAWTHOOLEI, the name given to the area by the Karen that means "a land without evil."
The Karen State is a beautiful rural landscape of hilly jungles and farm land. The beauty is what originally drew Karen people to settle here. The beautiful landscape, along with little money, has posed some challenges for SCHOOL, though. Children often have to walk several hours and are extremely limited in their schooling options. Many students drop out by 7th grade.
Government schools in Myanmar(Burma) very intentionally removed any hint at Karen culture, history, or language from the national EDUCATION. If Karen families want their children to learn about their own culture, they must find an alternative schooling option. This often requires money and resources many families just don't have access to in their rural villages.
More than just the name of our organization, the word THRIVE embraces the vision of an independently governed Karen State where all people have opportunities to embrace their Karenness without being persecuted.
The idea of CONFLICT has become part of life for the Karen. over seventy years of war have ravaged their homeland with no sign of improvement in the near future. The Karen have fought back and held strong against the military, but dream of a time when that is no longer needed.
As the Burmese military has worked to erase Karen culture from the planet, the people in the Karen State have fought, often giving their lives, for equal JUSTICE because a person's ethnicity and culture should not be something to hide.
Even with generations of brutal war, Karen people have HOPE of a brighter future. One where they are free to speak their language, educate their children about the Karen culture, and exist without the fears associated with ethno-political war.