Washington, Dec.25 : Cornell University's Southeast Asia Program (SEAP) has launched a programme to protect and preserve the Karen culture and language of Myanmar.
There are an estimated 50 Karen refugees now resettled in Ithaca on the Thai-Burma border.
Working with local teachers and refugee sponsors, Cornell is creating programs and resources to better serve the Karen and other refugees from Burma and to share their culture with the wider community.
In October 2007, SEAP held a two-day workshop, "Burma, Border Zones and the Karen People," with more than 60 attendees, including teachers, refugee sponsors, members of the Karen community and Cornell students and faculty.
The conference covered background information on Burma and the Karen, including history, current events, culture, ethnic diversity and conflict.
"The turnout was amazing," according to Thamora Fishel, SEAP outreach coordinator, who organized the workshop.
The Karen are an ethnic minority group native to south-eastern Burma and western Thailand. Political violence, instability and persecution by Burmese authorities have driven many Karen into refugee camps on the Thai border. Approximately seven million Karen live in Burma and 400,000 in Thailand.
The state department only recently allowed Karen refugees into the country.
Nearly 14,000 refugees arrived in the in 2007; more are expected. Many have settled in Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo as well as in Utica, New York, which now has one of the largest Karen and Burmese communities in the country with 1,000 refugees.
The Karen prefers to call their home Burma, which was renamed Myanmar in 1989 after the democracy movement was crushed.
Future workshops are being planned for Syracuse and Utica, further extending the positive impact of Cornell's Southeast Asia expertise and outreach. (ANI)
© 2007 ANI