Karel Nowak: A Last Farewell

At memorial service, Karel was remembered as a beloved husband and father, an esteemed colleague, and a man of deep conviction

Karel Nowak, right, was Secretary General of the Association Internationale de Def

Relatives and friends of Karel Nowak came from across the Czech Republic and Europe on Monday, September 5, to remember a man of “great wisdom, kindness, and commitment.”  The memorial service, held at a crematorium in Prague, Czech Republic, was marked by many tributes to Karel from both work associates and family members. Karel died in Cairns, Australia, on August 19, while en route to an International Religious Liberty Association event in Sydney. Dr. John Graz, IRLA Secretary General, travelled from Australia to Prague with Karel’s ashes and stayed to represent the IRLA and the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists at the memorial service.

In his tribute, Dr. Graz described Karel as someone who was always easy and pleasant to work with. “He was wise, kind, and competent, and we relied on his as an invaluable source of knowledge about the state of religious freedom in Europe,” he said. “Karel has made a difference for the good for many people and now God has welcomed him in His rest until the Resurrection day.“

Pastor Bruno Vertaillier, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Euro-Africa region, spoke about Karel’s deep faith and his commitment to God’s service.

At his death, Karel was Secretary General of the Euro-Africa Chapter of the International Religious Liberty Association, Public Affairs and Religious Liberty director for the Adventist Church in Euro-Africa, and editor of the publication, Conscience et Liberté.  He advocated for religious liberty at local and Europe-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.

Karel 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, United States, with a Master of Divinity degree.

He 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 the first post-Communist president of the Czechoslovakia Union from 1989 to 2004. In 2005 he became Public Affairs and Religious Liberty and Communications Department Director of the Adventist Church in Euro-Asia, headquartered in Bern, Switzerland. Since 2010, he concentrated exclusively on the areas of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty. 

Karel and his wife Dana were married on July 5, 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!”

“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.” [By IRLA/APD-Ch/ ANN/ CD-EUD]