June 10, 2007

Karen Reunion in Malaysia

KAREN REUNION: It is literally about reunion, not about division or exception

By Saw Kapi

When the idea of Karen Reunion was conceived some years ago by some of the organizers of this somewhat controversial and yet seemingly historical event, it was simply about creating an opportunity for Karens from different parts of the world, particularly in the Asia Pacific region, to come together, meet, befriend and talk about issues collectively encountered by Karen people everywhere. It was never meant to be a mere gathering of like-minded Karens.

If one talked about organizing a Karen Reunion in Malaysia fifteen years ago, it could be a surprise to many and the idea would have been dismissed and/or regarded as irrelevant. Although there were some Karens residing in overseas at that time, the number of those living abroad was not significant enough to establish a strong sense of community. But this situation has changed almost entirely within the last decade. Thousands of Karens, young and old, have left their homeland and immigrated to several countries in Asia, Europe and continental America. Consequently, Karen community organizations – religious, social or otherwise – are mushrooming in many countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, Norway, Canada, England and the United States of America.

From a more historical perspective, this emigration (or forced emigration, depending on how you look at it) of Karen people to different parts of the world is the biggest and most significant since the time they left Mongolia in B.C. 2017 and making their way eastwards to Yunnan and eventually settled in today's Burma around BC 739.

This changing political and demographic conditions dictate that when we talk about Karen, Karen identity or Karen progress, it cannot be narrowly confined within the scope of one ideological assembly, one geographic area, one religion or one linguistic group. Thus, it is critical that we construct the broadest possible Karen identity that is capable of accommodating multiple ideas, diverse backgrounds and a variety of cultural characteristics.

No individual should/can dictate whom to be invited to this Karen Reunion. But, whether to come or not is each individual's decision. "If they come, I will not join" attitude is utterly divisive and intrinsically destructive. It is even more ironic to hear that some alleged SPDC supporters are willing to meet, talk and discuss with other Karens; but a few of the so-called staunch Karen nationalists are unwilling or reluctant to meet, talk and discuss.

Certainly, this Karen Reunion is not about dividing Karen; it is about giving Karen people from all over the world an opportunity to reunite themselves. The invitation to this reunion is public as it has been made available online. Please see http://ieds.blogspot.com/2007/02/karen-reunion-2007-to-be-held-in.html. If any individual or organization does not want to join and meet with other fellow Karens, it is up to them. The spirit to meet, talk and discuss is the key here. No pre-conceived notion or judgment should sway our intention to bring together Karens from all kinds of background to meet and talk. If we avoid each other, the gap will get wider. Avoidance is not the answer.

So, join the Karen Reunion 2007 in KL, Malaysia, let your opinion be heard and contribute your constructive ideas for the progress of Karen people!

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