Published on Tuesday, January 7, 2003 by the Canadian CTV
Canadian Peace Activist Dies in Crash in Iraq
by Ian Harrison
A Canadian Christian peace advocate was killed Monday in a road accident in Iraq. George Weber, 73, died when the vehicle he was riding in blew a tire and rolled over.
Weber, of Chesley, Ont., was in Iraq with a group called Christian Peacemaker Teams, a Chicago-based organization with offices in Toronto and other countries.
He is the first member of the organization to lose his life in an overseas accident.
Weber was part of a delegation that went to Iraq for a two-week visit in late December. He was due to return to Canada on Thursday.
His group had concluded a visit to Basra and was returning to Baghdad in a three-car convoy when the accident occurred.
One of the car's rear tires blew and the Iraqi driver lost control of the hired vehicle, said Canadian activist Jim Loney, who was also in the car but was not seriously injured.
"The back left tire (of the vehicle) sort of exploded," said Loney. "There was this bang ... and the car almost immediately started skidding to the right."
Webber died of massive head injuries, said Doug Pritchard, the Canadian co-ordinator for Christian Peacemaker Teams.
Another Canadian, Larry Kehler, also escaped serious injury.
Michele Naar of Duluth, Minn., was released from hospital in Basra after being treated for a broken nose and whiplash, while Charles Jackson of San Antonio, Texas, remained in hospital with broken ribs, said Pritchard.
Pritchard told CTV that Weber was riding in "a good vehicle with new tires...on a straight, six-lane highway with good visibility."
He said the vehicle was equipped with seatbelts but didn't know whether Weber had been wearing one.
Pritchard said other members of the team and Iraqi police were investigating the accident.
The visit to Iraq was not Weber's first trip overseas with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). He spent a month in the West Bank city of Hebron in September and October of 2002.
Pritchard said Weber had received specialized conflict zone training from CPT. Not all CPT members who travel overseas receive such training, he said.
Weber, a former high school history teacher, is survived by his wife, two children and four grandchildren.
Christian Peacemaker Teams describes itself as a "violence reduction organization" made up of Christians of a variety of denominations.
The group's website says it is "committed to reducing violence by getting in the way."
The group, founded by Mennonites, has 140 full- and part-time members, including 40 Canadians. CPT currently has three Canadian and 14 American members in Iraq.
Activists have been visiting Iraq since October, said Pritchard. Groups have been stationed in Baghdad and the northern city of Mosul.
Another delegation is set to leave for a two-week visit on January 11.
The group hopes their presence in Iraq will deter a U.S.-led invasion. If war does break out, Pritchard said members will go to public areas and stand with Iraqi people.
"Our people are prepared to support institutions to protect the life of the civilian population," he said.
Media reports have dubbed the peace activists "human shields."
CPT is also planning a peace conference at the University of Baghdad from January 15 to 17. In addition, group members have been visiting Iraqi schools and hospitals.
With a report from The Canadian Press
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