Distance Theology and Karen Refugees

Stephen (of Greenflame) sent me the URL of an article by Terry Veling of the ACU School of Theology: “A Reflection on Karen Refugee Students on the Thai-Burma Border” it is an account of teaching Karen refugees a practical theology paper by distance learning, with a tutor who visited for three weeks. ACU are apparently offering courses by distance in the camps. The article was not only interesting for its insights into the plight of the Karen in and outside Burma, but also in modelling a different approach from that taken by the Kaw Thoo Lei Karen Baptist Bible School and College.

Photo of KKBBSC graduation ceremony from KarenConnection

Graduation at KKBBSC from karenkonnection.orgThe ACU have opted to offer the best of Western theological teaching, and an Internationally recognised qualification, by distance in the camps, enriched by visits from tutors. KKBBSC seems to be a home-grown Karen initiative,

[9 Feb 08 – Following the helpful comment by Sam, below, I realise that I expressed what followed badly, I wrote: “taught (as I currently understand it) mainly by Nagas from NE India.” I should have written something like:]

the teaching provided by the Karen leaders of the college is supplemented (as I currently understand it) mainly by Nagas from NE India.

Since the Naga people have culture and history that is more similar to the Karen this is likely to lead to a more contextually appropriate theology, but it probably therefore lacks some of the rigour of Western education and gives a qualification that will not be as recognised if the student is resettled to a Western country.

Clearly there are advantages to both approaches. It will be interesting to compare them more when we have been to KKBBSC and also to reflect if there are ways we can assist Saw Simon and the others to achieve the best results without betraying their huge achievements!


4 responses to “Distance Theology and Karen Refugees

  1. As for the teachers, they are ethnic Karen (Wado, Gail Moe, Htee Hto, William), but graduated from a Naga Seminary. There are Nagaland teachers at KKBBSC, usually 2 per year, but in 2007-2008 (Jun to March) school year, the Nagaland teachers are not teaching the Bible students. (as of Aug.2007) Prior years, they did teach Bible students.
    Naga and Karen’s culture I may add, are quite different based on what little i know, although I am neither Naga or Karen.

  2. Thank you Sam, for this helpful comment, at this stage I’m only able to tell what I can glean from what (little) I have been told 😉 hopefully in a month’s time I’ll start giving more accurate impressions!

    On the culture thing, I suspect (again subject to future correction in the light of better knowledge!) that the similarity and difference depends on where you stand, what I meant is that sharing many features of culture that are not shared with an Australian or Kiwi (American or Brit…) the Naga may be able to communicate on a more nearly heart level with the Karen and so be better able to help them grow theology with a Karen dialect…

  3. Are you heading to KKBBSC in a month or so? School ends in mid March, although this year they are celebrating their 25th anniversary which will last till end of March. They are anticipating 1000s of people to join them! P.S, the Nagas are not there as of today, due to visa situation. Thai changed their law over a year ago, visitors from Naga can only stay for a month. As you can imaging, going back and forth between Thailand and India every month, the expense is enormous. Naga teachers were there as visitors since KKBBSC cannot employ them and there were no NGOs that could help them secure working visas.
    Things in Mae La camp and KKBBSC are very fluid, what is true now may change tomorrow!

  4. We have also been invited to attend the celebration, though I did not realise that the teaching year would end in mid March or we would have tried to get there earlier. At least we should have maybe two weeks before teaching ends. (Communication by email across different cultures is not easy, and doubtless we have misunderstood or missed signals in the discussion of our dates, though these were also constrained by the price of different tickets and the dates that CTS wanted us to come here!)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s