Photo Credit: Trans-European Division


Association for Religious Freedom in Croatia Celebrates 30th Anniversary

Dragutin Matak, PhD, retired Adventist pastor, receives prestigious award

Croatia | Josip Takač, with tedNEWS

Celebrating 30 years of unwavering dedication, the Association for Religious Freedom in Croatia marked the World Day of Religious Freedom on January 28, 2024, at the Vatroslav Lisinski Concert Hall in Zagreb. Under the theme “1994–2024: Thirty Years of Constant Activity,” the event brought together representatives of religious communities and members of the Croatian government.

The ceremony began with a heartfelt rendition of the Croatian national anthem by the male voices of the renowned Adventist ensemble group Agape. They also performed two hymns before Slobodan Lalić, chairperson of the association, who reflected on its founding on February 14, 1994. While Valentine’s Day was unrecognized at the time, it was a fitting date, considering the nature of the association.

Key highlights of the ceremony included the distribution of the Dr. Branko Lovrec awards by Željko Mraz, association president, recognizing individuals for their significant contributions to religious freedom. Among the recipients were religious journalist Inoslav Bešker, posthumously honored for his commitment to religious pluralism and tolerance, and Goran Granić, PhD, for his advocacy of civil rights and freedoms.

Also recognized was Dragutin Matak, PhD, retired Adventist theologian and pastor. Dr. Matak, who served as the first president of the Adriatic Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists from 1998–2003, was acknowledged for his tireless work within the association, where he held the position of secretary. Renowned for his dedication to promoting religious freedom, human rights, and effective dialogue, Dr. Matak had previously received the Croatian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights Award in 2016. This previous award was given for his national and international efforts in advancing human rights and religious freedom.

The assembly also featured thought-provoking lectures, notably by Dr. Matak, who addressed the complexities of coercion in the name of religion. Representatives from nine religious communities conveyed their greetings, emphasizing unity in diversity and mutual respect. Notable speakers included Monseigneur Dražen Kutleša, representing the Archbishop of Zagreb; Pastor Mladen Dominić, representing the Council of Churches of Christ; and Aziz ef. Hasanović, president of the Meshihat Islamic Community in Croatia.

Messages of support poured in from guests unable to attend, including Šime Jerčić, secretary of the Croatian Office of the Committee for Relations with Religious Communities (OCRRC), and Monseigneur Antun Škvorčević, bishop of Požega, reaffirming the significance of religious freedom in Croatia.

The event concluded with inspiring speeches from official guests, reflecting on the constitutional guarantees and international frameworks supporting religious freedom, the pivotal role of religious freedom in Croatian society, and the association’s commitment to upholding this fundamental human right.

—Josip Takač is the secretary of the Association for Religious Freedom in Croatia. The association is a member of the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA). IRLA is a non-governmental organization with consultative status in the UN, UNESCO, and the Council of Europe, celebrating 131 years of existence in 2024.

The original version of this story was posted on the Trans-European Division website.