Karel Nowak, Euro-Africa Division
Official, Dies in Swimming Accident

Religious Liberty director was in Australia for IRLA conference

Karel Nowak, Public Affairs and Religious Liberty director for the Seventh-day Adventist Church's Euro-Africa Division, died while swimming in the ocean off the coast of Australia on the morning of August 19, 2011.

Nowak, 59, was snorkeling with colleagues off the coast of Cairn, Queensland, when the accident occurred. A rescue helicopter brought him to Cairns Base Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, said Corrado Cozzi, Communication director for the Euro-Africa Division, which is headquartered in Berne, Switzerland.

Nowak was to attend the International Religious Liberty Association's 13th Meeting of Experts, held this year at the University of Sydney School of Law. It is to begin August 21.

"This is a loss for the religious liberty family," said John Graz, IRLA secretary-general. "Karel was excellent in his work and we viewed him as one of the best defenders of religious freedom."

As PARL director in Euro-Africa, Nowak represented the denomination as a religious liberty advocate both at local and continent-wide meetings, including the European Parliament in Brussels and at the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations in Geneva.

"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 ANN in 2003 following a meeting with leaders of the Czech Republic.

Nowak was born December 10, 1951 in Velopoli, Moravia, Czech Republic. He originally trained as a tinsmith but later studied theology and graduated from church-owned Andrews University with a Master's of Divinity degree, Cozzi said.

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 before serving as president of the Czechoslovakia Union from 1989 to 2004. He served as Communication director and PARL director at the division beginning in 2005, moving exclusively to PARL responsibilities in 2010.

His wife, Dana, and their three children survive.

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