The Karen (or Kayin) people make up about 7% of the nearly 60 million people living in Myanmar (Burma). They are generally located in the southern or southeastern part of this Southeast Asian nation. A brutal military regime and a tragic cyclone in May 2008 are a couple of the reasons why approximately 150,000 Burmese refugees now live in camps across the border in Thailand, and why more Burmese refugees (15,000) located to the United States between 2006-2009 than any other ethnic group.
The largest and fastest growing Karen population is right here in Saint Paul, Minnesota, which is also home to the first Karen-led non-profit agency in the US, the Karen Organization of Minnesota (KOM). According to KOM, around 6,500 Karen people currently live in Minnesota. I (Adam) have had the privilege of meeting some of them, including several who attend International Village Church in the north end of Saint Paul.
This video (nearly 11 minutes long) contains footage from Myanmar, and helps to explain why this refugee crisis has been created and some of the ways that refugees are being helped:
Please enjoy this five-minute video of a traditional Karen dance performance that took place in Burnsville, Minnesota in May 2011:
And this is footage of a Karen cultural event in St. Paul, Minnesota in October 2012. My wife and I were privileged to be there for the last half of it: