The Appalachian Peace and Justice Network (APJN) is a non-profit organization that empowers and challenges groups and individuals to work for peace and social justice. APJN was established in 1984 during a nuclear freeze campaign by a visionary director of the United Campus Ministry at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. Since then, the organization has grown from a volunteer organization to employing two staff and serving a larger area.
APJN educates, trains, and builds coalitions among local and regional groups and institutions. Although APJN began as a peace and justice networking organization, over the years, it has tried to address the root causes of violence and militarism. APJN’s work for peace thus begins with providing education to respect diversity, increasing people’s knowledge and skills to solve problems, and fostering an independent, creative and critical thinking environment. The central ethos, however, remains the same, securing peace and social justice for all.
Some of the issues confronting the Appalachian region are: an economy based on extraction of resources such as coal, timber and gas, often with environmental consequences; and poverty; hunger and homelessness. Other issues are more subtle: a large military budget resulting in cutbacks in social services; Appalachian youth joining the military because few other jobs are available; U.S. domestic policies that affect the local economy; racism, sexism, and other divisions and conflicts. APJN’s effort is to empower people to identify and analyze these problems, develop possible solutions, and work for necessary changes.
Members of APJN come to work out of deeply held ethical, moral and religious beliefs. They also believe that change will only happen when people believe that their experiences and opinions matter and feel empowered to act.