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The Karen are an ethnic group of people mainly in Burma (Myanmar) but with some across the border in Thailand.

The Karen have been fighting for independence since 1949, making it the world's longest-running civil war, yet "almost entirely unreported".[1]

The population of the Karen people is officially 7,000,000, although the Karen people themselves claim it to be twice that.[1][2]

When the Karen were first visited by a European (a British diplomat) in 1795, the Karen were waiting for the fulfillment of a prophecy that they would one day be visited by a white man bringing with him a book, like they themselves lost long ago. This book was written by the Supreme God, Y'wa.[3]

The Karen had resisted attempts by Buddhist monks to convert the people to Buddhism, but when Christian missionaries arrived many years later, many Karen readily embraced Christianity,[3] which now makes up at least 30% of the Karen population.[2] Animists and Buddhists make up the rest.[2]

During World War II, the Karen sided with the British, despite Burma siding with Japan. This led to the Burmese military punishing the Karen.[1]

Journalist Phil Thornton describes the Karen as a very ethical and not greedy people, with a long history of oral literature, respect for elders, and an unwillingness to take bribes. They have never taken their fight outside their own territory.[1]



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Thornton
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Karen Website
  3. 3.0 3.1 Richardson