By Saw Solomon Opehtoo, Acting Pastor of the Karen Fellowship
From the perspective of a Christian Karen from Burma, Christmas and New Year are the most important events of the year. Christmas reminds us that God-called the Word-became flesh in order to in-dwell among humanity, to show people the way of justice and righteousness. Christmas supports the spirituality of the Christian Karens by showing that God is dwelling among us, and God is struggling with the Karens in order to fulfill their dream.
As the new year begins in January, the Karens find new hope in order to continue to struggle for their dream. The New Year reminds us to evaluate the past year and to prepare a better way of living. In this sense, traditionally, Christians in Burma normally connect the essence of Christmas and that of the New Year celebration to review their Christian life.
The Karens’ experience of worldly suffering teaches them that they need strength from God, because it is impossible for them to struggle without divine power. Their experience teaches them that they have to look for spiritual power to continue to survive in suffering. Coming to the church is meaningful for them to look for their spiritual sustenance so that they can possess enough strength to continue their lives.
For the poor, the oppressed, the persecuted, the marginalized, and the discriminated against, Christmas in December and the New Year in January bring a new strength and a new hope. Although the shepherds were in a hopeless position in the time of Roman persecution, they had been the first group of people who receive the good news about the coming of Savior. Although the Karens are suffering in civil wars, Christmas brings a new hope for them so that they can continue to survive in a world filled with suffering.
People need hope to live. Although the Karen people have been oppressed for centuries, they are still living because they have a hope that someday they will receive “Kaw Thoo Lei,” meaning a land without evil. This is the source of hope for the Karen people of Burma. The Karens’ “Kaw Thoo Lei” hope is simply the hope of all people to create and receive a decent human society in this world. Even arriving in a new world, such as the United States of America, Canada, Australia, and Europe, to resettle and to start anew, the Karen people from Burma still hope that their Kaw Thoo Lei dream will be fulfilled someday.
Pastor Solomon will be presenting on the panel Human Rights Without Borders: Immigration and the Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. on Sunday, January 14 at 1:30 pm. Click here for more information about the conference.