30th Anniversary of the Religious Liberty Association in Croatia

Retired Adventist theologian and pastor, Dragutin Matak, receives award.

News February 7, 2024
28 January 2024| Zagreb, Croatia [Josip Takač with tedNEWS]

Celebrating thirty years of unwavering dedication, the Association for Religious Freedom in Croatia marked the World Day of Religious Freedom on 28 January 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.

Agape signing
The male voices of the Adventist Ensemble group, Agape, performing at the celebration of World Day of Religious Freedom.

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, chair of the Association, who reflected on its founding on 14 February 1994. While Valentine’s Day was unrecognised 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 Association President, Željko Mraz, recognising individuals for their significant contributions to religious freedom. Among the recipients were religious journalist Inoslav Bešker, posthumously honoured for his commitment to religious pluralism and tolerance, and  Goran Granić, PhD, for his advocacy of civil rights and freedoms.

Dragutin Matak, PhD, the first president of the Adriatic Union Conference, was acknowledged for his tireless dedication to promoting religious freedom.

Also recognised was retired Adventist theologian and pastor, Dragutin Matak, PhD. Matak, who served as the first president of the Adriatic Union Conference from 1998 to 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, 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 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, emphasising unity in diversity and mutual respect. Notable speakers included the representative of the Archbishop of Zagreb, Monseigneur Dražen Kutleša, Pastor Mladen Dominić, representing the Council of Churches of Christ, and Aziz ef. Hasanović, President of the Meshihat Islamic Community in Croatia.

The Minister for Justice and Public Administration, Ivan Malencia brought greetings on behalf of the Croatian government.

Messages of support poured in from guests unable to attend, including Šime Jerčić, 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 Assembly’s commitment to upholding this fundamental human right.

[Photos: Neven Klačmer and Miroslav Vukmanić, CC BY 4.0]

Josip Takač is the Secretary of the Association for Religious Freedom in Croatia. The Association for Religious Liberty in Croatia 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.

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