IRLA Euro-Africa Leader Dies in Swimming Accident
Nowak was to attend IRLA meeting of experts in Sydney
[ANN] Karel Nowak, Secretary General of the Euro-Africa Chapter of the International Religious Liberty Association, died while swimming in the ocean off the coast of Australia this morning, August 19. Nowak, 60, was snorkeling with colleagues off the coast of Cairns, Queensland. A rescue helicopter brought him to Cairns Base Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, said Corrado Cozzi, Communication director for the Euro-Africa Division, based in Berne, Switzerland.
Nowak was 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. It begins 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 looked at him as one of the best defenders of religious freedom."
Nowak was a strong and widely respected religious liberty advocate both at local and continent-wide meetings, including 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 Andrews University in the U.S. state of Michigan 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 Czecholslovakia Union from 1989 to 2004. He has elected as IRLA Euro-Africa Secretary General in 2005.
He is survived by his wife, Dana, and their three children.