The Karen (pronounced “kah REN”) are one of the ethnic groups from Burma.
Burma is located in Southeast Asia between India and Thailand and south of China. It is roughly the size of Texas. Karens live mainly in the east and southeastern part of the country (see map). After the ethnic Burmese, they are the largest ethnic group in Burma.
When Burma gained her independence from the British in 1948, the Karens asked for their own autonomous state. However, their requests were ignored. They have been fighting for their own land since 1949, which makes that conflict the longest running civil war in the world.
The Karens in Utica are refugees who fled from the war and systematic ethnic cleansing by the Burmese military regime. Most of the Karen youths here were born in the refugee camps in Thailand and have never set foot in Burma. Karens make up the majority of the approximately 4,000 people of the various ethnic groups of Burma living in Utica today. We are a very simple and humble people. We are hard workers. We value sincerity, honesty, loyalty, and respect for our elders and peers.