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The End Of Something Peaceful

After 26 years of advocacy, Oregon PeaceWorks (OPW) will close its doors on April 30.   The peace, justice and sustainability organization made the decision to shut down as “the inescapable response to financial pressures.”

The group’s goal has been to unify Oregon’s peace movement and promote greater networking and cooperation.  It sponsored periodic “Peace Summits” and either led or participated in most of Oregon’s peace initiatives.  It also played a key role in helping establish the Oregon Progressive Network – an association of nearly 100 progressive organizations.

“I think the movement will eventually have to invent another statewide progressive group to work on the nexus between peace, justice and sustainability issues,” says OPW Program Director and former Executive Director Peter Bergel.   Although other excellent organizations exist, Bergel says, citing Physicians for Social Responsibility, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Veterans for Peace and Rural Organizing Project, “no other organization has tried to knit the Oregon peace movement together the way OPW has tried to do, serving as Oregon’s main clearinghouse for the kinds of issues we have focused on.”

OPW began in 1987, formed by peace workers from all over Oregon.  The group immediately played an important role in achieving a moratorium on U.S. nuclear weapons testing – a moratorium which is still being observed. OPW also led statewide opposition to the invasion of Iraq in 1991 and to the Iraq war that began in 2003.

Excessive military spending was a frequent target.

“OPW was leading the effort to make clear the connections between peace/justice issues and sustainability/climate change issues,” says Bergel. “We believe those connections are a crucial area where the entire peace movement needs to concentrate its efforts.”

In 1988, OPW began publication of The PeaceWorker, a peace newspaper that circulated statewide, as well as in Northern California and Southern Washington.  It twice won awards from National Peace Action, the nation’s largest grassroots peace group, with which OPW was affiliated.

Economic pressures challenge many nonprofits, says OPW Board Chair John Roy Wilson.  “We managed to survive the 2008-09 crisis, but this time we don’t see how we can continue to meet our financial obligations. We’re not able to simply print money. Unlike the U.S. military, we have to live within our means.”

The organization will hold a going-out-of-business sale on April 19-20 from 10-5 at the their downtown Salem office at 104 Commercial St.

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