How SOP alumnus Kipho Mora works for peace
By Sara Klassen, edited by Rachel Bergen
Kipho Mora was born in Burma in an armed conflict area. He’s Karen, a minority group in Burma that has been embroiled in a terrible war with the Burmese government since 1949.
When Kipho was only five years old, his family was forced to move to a Karen refugee camp because the conflict was getting worse and worse.
“I thought the Burmese were bad. I thought, They will kill you,” Kipho said.
While living and attending school in the refugee camp, Kipho had the opportunity to pursue his interest in videography. He also learned about the Interfaith Cooperation Forum and their School of Peace, which he attended in 2010.
[“At SOP] I learned many things. The first thing was critical thinking. Before I went to SOP I could not think critically,” Kipho said.
At SOP he learned to ask questions like, “Why do they do this?” When Kipho returned home, he met with some Burmese people and thought critically about the stereotypes he believed.
“They said things like, “We are Burmese, but we don’t want to kill all the Karen people. This is the system, the government. We do not like this government either.’ They told me stories, and I realized not all Burmese are bad,” Kipho explained.
They said things like, ‘We are Burmese, but we don’t want to kill all the Karen people. This is the system, the government. We do not like this government either.’ They told me stories, and I realized not all Burmese are bad.” – Kipho Mora
SOP expanded Kipho’s perspective not just about his home conflict, but about the cultures, religions, and issues of many parts of the world.
“At SOP I learned about the different religions and different people. I had not heard about Muslim people and Islam. I talked with my friends at SOP, asked them questions, listened to them, to understand them, so we could respect each other.”
Now Kipho is using the justpeace lessons from SOP and his videography skills with an organization called Burma Issues.
Kipho and Burma Issues use videos to educate people about issues facing the community to help them understand the potential implications.
“There are many things I feel responsible for and this is a big challenge,” he said.
It’s also challenging for Kipho when his people show apathy to the ongoing issues.
“Sometimes when I make a video on an important issue and I feel like no one watches it, no one gives feedback, I feel like I’m not doing my work. I lose motivation. I think, Why are people not interested in this issue?”
Public apathy is one of many discouraging realities Kipho faces. He also observes his government and global powers tossing around the term “peace” in futile play they call progress.
“Sometimes I hate the word peace because the government uses this word to destroy the people. They say they are doing “peace talks,” but the way they are doing them is really just development—like a dam project, or rubber plantation project—which destroys the villagers’ land. Maybe I will do justice and justpeace but not “peace.” I do not understand what is peace for them.”
“Transformation can happen only when the marginalized people know their rights. Then there will be change. I will keep fighting; keep doing my job to bring justice—I don’t want to say peace, just justice — to my community.” – Kipho Mora
Despite these frustrations, Kipho forges on, clinging to this commitment and vision:
“Transformation can happen only when the marginalized people know their rights. Then there will be change. I will keep fighting; keep doing my job to bring justice—I don’t want to say peace, just justice — to my community.”