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Tragic death of religious freedom expert Karel Nowak

Tragic death of religious freedom expert Karel Nowak

Bern, Switzerland, August 22,2011. CD-EUD. Karel Nowak, Public Affairs and Religious Liberty director for the Seventh-day Adventist Church's Euro-Africa Division (EUD), based in Bern, Switzerland, died while snorkeling in the ocean near Cairns, Queensland

August 22, 2011 | APD-Ch; ANN; CD-EUD - Pictures E. Diez-Prida and others

Bern, Switzerland, August 22,2011. CD-EUD. Karel Nowak, Public Affairs and Religious Liberty director for the Seventh-day Adventist Church's Euro-Africa Division (EUD), based in Bern, Switzerland, died while snorkeling in the ocean near Cairns, Queensland, Australia on Friday, August 19. Despite the desperate run by a rescue helicopter to the nearest hospital, he was pronounced dead.
Nowak, age 60, was in Australia to attend next week's International Religious Liberty Association's 13th Meeting of Experts, held this year at the University of Sydney School of Law, from August 21 to 24.
This is not only a tragedy for Karel's family but the whole church. "This is a loss for the religious liberty family," said John Graz, Adventist world church director of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty (PARL) in Silver Spring, Maryland, USA. "Karel was excellent in his work and we looked at him as one of the best defenders of religious freedom." Sharing his sadness, Bruno Vertallier, EUD president said “We have lost a wonderful brother and we hope to see him soon.”

As PARL director in the EUD, and General Secretary of the International Association for the defense and promotion of religious freedom (AIDLR) - a European non-governmental organization - Nowak represented the denomination as a religious liberty advocate both at local and continent-wide meetings, including the European Parliament in Strasbourg, the European Union in Brussels and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations in Geneva. He was also editor of the magazine “Conscience and Liberty,” a yearly publication of the AIDLR.
"I am convinced that all churches and religious communities should have the same rights and responsibilities toward the society represented by the state," Nowak told the Adventist News Network in 2003 following a meeting with leaders of the Czech Republic.

Nowak was born December 10, 1950 in Velopoli, Moravia, Czech Republic. He originally trained as a tinsmith but later studied theology and graduated from Andrews University in Michigan, U.S.A. with a Master of Divinity degree.

Nowak pastored a church in the southern Moravia town of Znojmo from 1973 to 1978, and later directed the Czechoslovakia Publishing Department of the Adventist Church (1978-1989) before serving as president of the Czechoslovakia Union from 1989 to 2004. In 2005 he became Public Affairs and Religious Liberty (PARL) and Communications Department Director of the EUD in Bern. Since 2010, he concentrated exclusively on the areas of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty. 


Karel Nowak, married to Dana on 5th July 1979 in Prague, had three daughters: Alena, Eva and Jana. He was a loved husband and father. “He taught me to fight opinions, not people,” said

Alena Nowak, the eldest. “I remember how as a teenager I felt so irritated when he constantly asked for my reasons and motives. But it was a great lesson that you should think carefully about what you are doing and once you decide it is worth it, you should fight for it.”
Jana Nowak, the youngest daughter, remarked that, “My dad found deep joy in Christ and was able to experience it every day, even in this imperfect world.” And describing her relationship with her father, she said “My dad was an authority to me, he has my deep respect and still we had fun together. I smile when I think of him!” This authentic relationship was built in the mutual respect attitude that identifies the behavior of Karel Nowak.
“It is still so unreal knowing my beloved daddy is not coming back from his trip,” said Jana, “however, I know I have a heavenly Father who is very much alive. Being in His hands, I find shelter even during these hard days.”

Karel Nowak was determined and focused on what he believed was most important: his faith, service and his family. “Yet he was still able to stop and enjoy life and the beauty of God's creation,” said Alena, “as he was doing last Friday!”

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