LAHORE: The supreme body of the Church of Pakistan (CoP) has unanimously elected Bishop of Raiwind Diocese Dr Azad Marshall as Moderator of the mainline Protestant church in Pakistan. The election was conducted during the 16th Triennial Meeting of the CoP Synod on May 13-14th in which bishops of all eight dioceses of the CoP and members of the synod council were present. In a statement after the election, Bishop Marshall said that he was grateful to the council members and his fellow bishops for reposing their trust in him unanimously. “I’m humbled by the confidence shown in me by the synod members and I look forward to working closely with them to address the challenges facing the Church of Pakistan and the community at large,” said the newly-elected moderator. “The church has a key role in community building and ensuring the welfare and security of its followers. Pakistani Christians are facing extraordinary challenges and it is important that the church leadership engages with the government and other stakeholders to find concrete solutions to these problems,” he said. Dr Marshall said that during his over 12 years of service as the Anglican bishop in Iran and the Middle East, he had always strived to promote interfaith harmony and regional peace. “Being a Pakistani Christian, it is also my responsibility to remove the negative perceptions about my country. Issues like forced conversion and underage marriages of minority girls, misuse of the blasphemy laws, rising intolerance in our society, poverty etc bring a bad name to Pakistan and affect the efforts being made to project a positive image of the country. “Therefore, it’s important that the government and other stakeholders work with us to address these crucial issues on priority so that we are able to allay the concerns in the Christian world emanating from propaganda by Pakistan’s enemies.” CONGRATULATIONS POUR IN: Bishop Marshall’s unanimous election as the Moderator of the CoP has been widely welcomed in the government, religious, political, and civil society circles. In their congratulatory messages, the government’s representatives on religious affairs and interfaith harmony said that they acknowledged Dr Marshall’s efforts in fostering inter-religious peace and projecting Pakistan’s positive image abroad. “As the new head of the Church of Pakistan, we hope Bishop Marshall will continue to use his influence and experience for the betterment of the Christian community and in the larger interest of the country,” they said in a statement. Ordained as a Deacon in 1987 and a Presbyter in 1988, in the Church of Pakistan, Bishop Marshall served as the Vicar of St. Andrew’s Church, Lahore. In 1994 he was consecrated Bishop by the Church of Pakistan to serve the Urdu-speaking congregations in the Gulf States. The following year he was made an Associate Bishop in the Province of the Middle East. In 2003, Bishop Azad was appointed Vicar General in the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East to have Episcopal oversight of the Church in Iran. In 2007, he was installed as Sixth Bishop of Iran and, in 2009, he was also made Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf for Urdu-speaking Congregations. That same year he was elected as a member of the Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and also President of the National Council of Churches in Pakistan.