Hamilton Embraces the Karens

Hughson St. Baptist Church in Hamilton, ON has been privileged to open its doors and heart to the Karen people from Southeast Asia.


The Karens have been forced to flee from their homes due to an ‘ethnic cleansing’ carried out by the government of Burma. Nearly one million Karens live in hiding within Burma, moving from place to place to keep ahead of army troops hunting them. When they run out of options, they flee into Thailand where some 155,000 are living in refugee camps. Rejected by both Burma and Thailand, most refugees have citizenship in neither. Without citizenship, the Karens are generally rejected by the world and trapped in often deplorable conditions.


In 2006, as governments around the world began to accept them for resettlement, about 3,000 Karens came to Canada. Others arrived since. In Hamilton, there are presently about 400.

Although Burma is predominantly a Buddhist country, the Karens were some of the earliest converts to Christianity in Southeast Asia. American Baptist missionary Adoniram Judson arrived in Burma in 1813 and found the Karen people ready to embrace the Good News of Jesus.


It has been a daunting journey for the Karens in Canada. As rural people, they struggle to adapt to urban life. Prior to coming here many had never seen a concrete building or been on a bus. Some of the young Karen leaders spent the first 26 years of their lives living in refugee camps. Learning a new language and finding their place in a new culture so radically different from their own, is an enormous challenge.


God has called Hughson St. to journey with them and we have been blessed by the interaction we share. Hearing stories of the strength of their faith in Christ, even through the terror of being pursued, the trial of living in refugee camps, and now the challenge of being a displaced people in a new land, has been enriching. Hughson St. works with the Karen congregation in the areas of leadership and congregational development. We thank God for this opportunity.



Dwayne Cline is Senior Pastor of Hughson Street Baptist Church in Hamilton, Ontario.