The Karen People
The Karen People


Karen like a jokeThe Karen people came from Mongolia to Burma in Antiquity, via the Gobi Desert, coming to inhabit the south eastern mountains bordering Thailand. They now number about seven million. In the 1770s Karen people were invited by the king of Thailand to inhabit the Western border of Thailand, as a buffer against Burmese invasion. These are now the Thai Karen, numbering about six hundred thousand.

Their ancient script is quite similar to Hebrew, their name for God is Yowah, quite similar to the Hebrew Yahweh, and their ancient tradition tells them that they once had the book of God, which they lost, but which would be restored to them by a white man. Adoniram Judson, the pioneer American Missionary to Burma, had a Karen servant, who read Burmese, and when he read the Bible that Judson had translated, he realized that it was the book of God. From then on The Gospel spread rapidly through the Karen, and to other ethnic groups in Burma and beyond. In the 1880s Karen missionaries started a Karen church in Thailand. This has grown to 502 Karen mother and daughter churches, with more than twenty seven thousand baptized members.

During World War II, the Karen were loyal to the British and fought with them. Leading Burmese, including Ne Win, on the other hand, were trained in Japan, and fought for the Japanese. After the war U Nu, the prime minister, formed a private army led by Ne Win, and harassed the Karen, then he arrested the armed forces commander, who was Karen and replaced him with Ne Win. In 1962 Ne Win seized power, and initiated a tyrannical military dictatorship, which continues under the present leadership.

Karen peopleThe Karen, along with other ethnic groups came under attack, but they held their own until 1995, when the Buddhist Karen were persuaded to form a separate army against their former allies, and were used as a proxy by the Burmese army. Now some Karen villages are under Burma army control, and subject to rape, killing, forced labour, and confiscation of goods at the whim of the local Burma army troops. Villages outside Burma army control are free fire zones. The villagers flee when the dogs bark, and those caught by the army are killed. The rest hide in the jungle and try to survive, or escape to Thailand.

Due to the high death rate amongst young adults, there are many orphans, who are taken care of in hostels in the refugee camps. Also many children and youth are sent to the refugee camps because the parents cannot get education for them in the jungle.

Chrestos Relief supplies medicine to medics for internally displaced people (IDPs), and supports children being cared for in refugee hostel /orphanages. Chrestos Team with Thai Karen Church

Chrestos Relief also helps Thai Karen hostels and villages with rice and canned fish, where there is a particular need. Also with village medical work, the distribution of CD players and CDs and VCDs and the provision of a village water system.