The people who participate in Plowshare sponsored (or endorsed) events have a variety of social, political, and philosophical viewpoints. Our organization is a nexus to find other activists that share your specific concerns and thereby help each other on goals of mutual interest. We have worked on perhaps 200 different peace and social justice issues in the past 50 years. Typically, no more than 5-10% of our 270 “members” work on any particular cause, as most are only passionate about (and therefore work on) 1 or 2 issues. But here they find morale support, and usually at least one or two other kindred spirits to assist them, sometimes many more. (If you have an issue you’d like to work on, then contact us!)
The history of Plowshare Peace and Justice Center is a grassroots story.
In the late 1960’s several Roanoke residents got together to publicly protest United States involvement in the Vietnam War. Demonstrations had been raging in big cities for years, so it made sense that citizens from our small town eventually added their voice to ending the war. By 1969, Saturday protests in downtown’s Elmwood Park were a regular occurrence.
A few years later the war was winding down and the number of protesters naturally dwindled. What remained was a small, but dedicated group that was sick of United States’ warmongering. So, they decided to keep working to illuminate our many covert (and illegal) military actions around the globe, and also a few other social issues. It was at this time they officially named themselves the Ecumenical Peace Fellowship, though informally, the name Plowshares was used among themselves (from the Bible verse about beating swords into plowshares). This was around early 1973 and marks the beginning of our organization.
The next several years saw more changes for the group and in 1979 the name was officially changed to Plowshare Peace and Justice Center and registered as a non-profit 501(3)c organization. This was logical since the group had expanded its focus to include many other social issues, plus they started fundraising and wanted to be sure everything was legal. In addition, even though the organization had (and still has) members of many different churches, they have always been secular, not sectarian, so some members were already referring to themselves as Plowshares. (Note: There are several other groups in the U.S. with Plowshare in their name. We are not associated with any of them.)
For decades our members have continued to speak out on a multitude of social issues, but our foremost focus has always been peaceful resolution to conflicts and trying to deter the United States’ endless war machine. To our way of thinking, after World War II, there has not been a single war that the United States should have been involved in, much less our multitude of covert military actions, which very often involves the overthrow of foreign governments and numerous assassinations.
(Some will argue that if any other country had our power, then their behavior would be as bad, perhaps even worse. Maybe. But wicked deeds are still wicked. Tell the people of Iraq how righteous we are… The threat of weapons of mass destruction is now known to have been a premeditated lie, invented to provide an excuse for invasion, to increase both our wealth and Middle East influence. Because of us, Iraq suffered approximately 1,000,000 dead and 2,000,000 wounded, plus 3,000,000 refugees and a destroyed economy. And when those refugees finally came back, hundreds of thousands found their homes ruined. Plowshares spoke up against that war from the very beginning – because it was the right thing to do.)
Today, Plowshare Peace and Justice Center is celebrating its 50th anniversary. We are Virginia’s oldest peace advocacy organization, and we will continue to play our small part in making life a little better, hopefully with you alongside us.
In addition to our regular monthly peace vigil in downtown Roanoke (over 200 times, since 2005) Plowshare also hosts, sponsors, or endorses a wide variety of special programs and events. There are too many to list, but as an example, some of the problems we’ve worked on include: the need for independent news, truth-in-recruitment (military), defense of whistleblowers, repeal of the Patriot Act, increased minimum wages, ending the death penalty, peaceful civil disobedience, pollution, nuclear proliferation, domestic violence, climate change, the Cuban embargo, political prisoners, union support, and easily more than 100 others…
Having worked on so many issues, past and present, there’s no doubt you’ll disagree with some of our opinions. Please don’t let that stop you from getting to know us. If complete agreement was required to actually do something, then we would never help anybody. Instead, do what we do: When one or more of us has to accept that the majority has decided to support something we don’t agree with, we simply respect their opinions from the sidelines. Democracy works.
Again, we really do want your help, big or small. Please consider getting to know us. You might even make a friend or two along the way. At the very least, we will all learn from each other with thoughtful and intelligent conversations.