Dr. Stephen Gill has authored more than twenty books, including collections of poems, literary criticism and fiction. His poetry and prose have appeared in more than three hundred publications. He has written book reviews, research papers, and articles on world peace. The main body of his works is in English. Once in a while, he writes poetry in Urdu, Hindi and Punjabi. He has translated poems of others into Urdu, Hindi and Punjabi languages and vice versa. Global peace and social concerns are the main areas of his interest. In addition to poetry, he writes and lectures about the rights of minorities in the region of India and Pakistan.
His recognitions include two honorary doctorates. He is going to receive his third honor of a doctorate in the fall of this year by the Ansted University. His additional honors include, Laureate Man of Letters from United Poets Laureate International; Sahir Award of Honor from Sahir Cultural Society, Punjab, India; Poet of Peace Award from Pakistan Association of Ottawa (Canada); a plaque from The World Council of Asian Churches (Canada); and Pegasus International Poetry for Peace Award from Poetry in the Arts, Inc. (Texas). Above all, he is a nominee for Noble Prize in literature. His poems have been translated and published in several languages.
Dr. Gill said he does not write for awards and recognitions. He uses his pen for sharing. He writes about human rights to make the world aware of those issues to make the world a better place to live. He feels rewarded when he is able to do his task. He finds writing a most difficult job. Writing is like a mother who gives birth to a child. It is a painful process but also there is joy in giving birth to a soul. It is the same with a poet. To bring out something that is within is not that easy, he says.
Dr. Stephen Gill is former president of Vesta Publications Ltd.; the Canadian Authors Association (Cornwall, Ont. Branch); a national vice-president of the World Federalist of Canada; the Multicultural Council of Stormont and Dundas; and chief delegate to represent the World University for Canada.
At present, he is a vice-president of the Christian Cultural Association of South Asians and an honorary member of the Ansted University Board of Advisory Council. He is honorary editor and advisor to literary publications. He is a member of the PEN international; The Writer's Union of Canada; Amnesty International, and Associated Church Press. Stephen Gill was born in Sialkot, Pakistan, where he passed the early years of his life. He lived in Ethiopia and England for a while before setting in Canada about forty years ago. Books, a literary publication, write that "Stephen Gill expresses his thoughts and hopes for a peaceful and beautiful world," and the Expositor, a daily Canadian newspaper, says, "Stephen Gill builds bridges with his Books."
Management of Pakistan Christian Post passed a delightful evening with Dr. Stephen Gill during his visit to New York in July of 2002. Pakistan Christian Post can trace a long record of the achievements of Dr. Stephen Gill in the fields of arts, culture and philosophy. We just summarized some of them above. Here is a glimpse of our talk:
PCP: You are living in Canada for decades. How do you feel about the people of South Asia?
Dr. Gill: I live in the West but I am always concerned about my community in the country of my
birth. I am concerned about the minorities living in South Asia, whether they are Muslims and Buddhists in India, Christians and Hindus living in Bangladesh, Christians and Hindus living in Pakistan. Before the partition, South Asia was a better continent of love, peace and harmony. I believe that All India Christian association did not act very carefully before and after the partition. Our leaders with All India Christian Association did not seek guarantees about the future of minorities. I have been always concerned about the Muslims left behind in India during the partition in 1947. I had been always worried about the Muslims living in East Pakistan, about their basic human rights in Pakistan federation. I have written a book, titled Discovery of Bangladesh about the Bengalee Muslims living in the East wing of Pakistan.
PCP: Your political concept is very strong. Why do you adopt poetry as a media to express your message of peace?
Dr. Gill: I believe that poetry is best media to convey my message to all the communities living in different countries. Poetry is vision. It is the language of soul. The language of soul is incredibly strong and effective to reach other souls. I believe that love and peace walk side by side. I believe that where there is no love, there is no peace. And where there is no peace, there is no progress, there is no prosperity, and there is no meaning in living. I believe that peace is the heart of the body and if the heart stops, life stops. I believe that peace is a liberator, a healer. If there is any true religion that is the religion of peace; if there is any true language that is the language of peace; if there is any true culture that is the culture of peace.
Peace and love are the supreme sources for great works of art. Peace is ocean. The energy that comes from peace is infinite. Human is the wave of the infinite ocean. To build a connection with the ocean of peace, humans need the bridge of love. Love is the kingdom of peace.
PCP: Do you think that your poetry of peace can solve the crisis in Kashmir?
Dr. Gill: Awareness that peace can be achieved through peaceful means will open doors for peaceful solutions. Peace through peaceful means is another side of the coin of love. In other words, peace and love go together. In the message of peace, there is the message of love. By crossing the pastures of harmony Pakistanis and Indians would learn to respect the views of each other. When there are bilateral relations based on love, the process of negotiations becomes smoother that leads to positive conclusions.
I believe that the leaders of India and Pakistan should sit down around a table, thinking about the destruction that war and the preparations of war cause to a nation. The first battlefield of any war is the mind. That is where a battle starts. Before sitting on a table for any talk, leaders from both sides should understand it clearly that war and violence in any shape will never solve any problem. Violence has never been able to solve any problem in the past. The First World War and even the Second World War and all the wars that had been fought before in the name of religion proved futile. Armed clashes have not been able to solve problems and they are not going to solve any in the future. With all sophisticated engines of destruction now available, the human civilization is likely to disappear forever from earth. It took centuries to build our civilization and now it will take hours at the most to annihilate it.
PCP: Would you like to present your World Government idea? You have been delivering lectures on these issues? D you think it is a form of new world order that was presented by the US decades ago?
Dr. Gill: My philosophy behind World Government is to stop the future horrors and wastes. My idea of a World government is different from the new world order. I am fully convinced that the United Nations is a sort of a world government though it needs to be improved. A world government would save incredible amounts of money and energy that are being wasted by nations to defend themselves against their imaginary foes.
All the armed forces everywhere will come under the control of the world government. Countries will be allowed to keep police forces to maintain law and order situations. When there are no expenditures for nations to build their arsenals for their armies, the money of these countries would be saved. Those savings of billions of dollars every year will be used to improve health and education facilities, for the rehabilitation of poor, and to work for a better and more peaceful life on earth. Every government will have equal powers and right to vote in this democratically elected world government.
The European common market that has united Europe, the United States of America and several democracies provide some sort of a blue print for a world government. South Asian countries should learn from them to achieve unity and better understanding through exchanges. The world is moving though slowly toward the destination of one world government. We are living in a global village, but this village does not have a democratically elected mayor and councilors.
In other words, there is a global village, but this village has several national governments, which are pulling the rope of progress and peace in different directions. This situation is hindering the cause of peace. We need a one government now. According to Darwin, there is evolution. There is evolution also in the political and national spheres. The evolution will not stop. After the emergence of national states, an international state is bound to emerge sooner or later.
No body should stand in the way of this evolution. They will hinder its emergence. It is the time for every individual and nation to work for the formation of a democratically elected world government. At present, every citizen of the world should strengthen the hands of the United Nations because it may emerge as a real world government. Without the United Nations, the world would be in a more chaotic situation.
PCP: Are you a human right activist too? Many organizations include you in that category?
Dr. Gill: You are one hundred percent right. I am a human rights activist also. It is one aspect or issue of world peace. We cannot think of peace without considering human rights. The countries where human rights are violated cannot be on the way to progress and happiness. Those countries are problems for themselves as well as for the international community. My poetry is also about social concerns. I believe that human rights are the concern of every citizen. The declaration of human rights passed by the United Nations has been approved by most nations. Pakistan is one of them. Still Pakistan violates the human rights of minorities openly.
Pakistan since the days of Zia through its blasphemy and other discriminatory laws promotes terrorism. These laws prevent the country from unity and progress. It is in the interest of majority to respect the rights of minorities as it is practiced in the Western democracies. If this is not possible, then Pakistan should form a separate province for minorities where they will be able to live in peace and with dignity. It is in the interest of Pakistan to form this province, at least on a trial basis for a short time. This province will not have more rights than other provinces have at present.
PCP: Do you have any advice for minorities in Pakistan, particularly for Christians?
Dr. Gill: Minorities should use effective means to make the world aware of their concerns. Why to talk about the West? Even their own compatriots particularly those who belong to the majority class are not well aware of the situations of minorities in Pakistan. Press is one way to
Communicate with their compatriots as well as with the rest of the world. I am talking about a strong press. Unfortunately, minorities in Pakistan do not have press at all. Among Christians, some churches have their newsletters or something like that for their own members and close
Friends. Even those newsletters are in their own language and they are mostly for religious materials. There is almost nothing to communicate with the outside world. Do not take me wrong. The battle for the improvement of the situation of Christians in Pakistan will have to be fought by Pakistani Christians themselves.
Their compatriots settled abroad could help them in a limited way. I agree here that without their help, the minorities in Pakistan or elsewhere cannot do much. History is full of the incidents of such help. The foundation of Indian National Congress to free India from the British rule was laid first abroad. The concept of Pakistan was also coined abroad and helps for its formation came from abroad. Several terrorist groups received their oxygen in the form of money from aboard. Even the Nazi regime of Hitler depended for help from abroad during the years of their struggle to come in power. The story can go on and on.
What I am trying to say here is that the local citizens should take it upon themselves to improve the situation in their own country. At the same time, their compatriots abroad should not forget that their aunts and uncles are still in the country of their origin where the bones of their ancestors are buried and where they have left a part of themselves. They should not try to forget the countries of their origin and the problems their community face.
I would like to repeat it that minorities in Pakistan should stand on their own two feet. One way to do that is to get into their own businesses. They should develop business skills. This way, they will not have to apply for jobs to be rejected due to discriminatory climate. Moreover, they should try to receive better education. Again, the problem is discrimination even in the educational sector.
Churches have money, lands, contacts and every thing that is needed to form a good university. If every church contributes according to its ability or based on equal shares, this dream of forming a respectable university to produce also their own scholars, scientists and engineers can be fulfilled. Teachers from abroad can be hired to give top education to the children of minority groups. Do not tell me that there is shortage of able persons among Christians in Pakistan to run the university. The university can be under the control of most established and recognized denominations in Pakistan. I have a simple question for those who say there are no able persons to fill vacancies.
First of all, teachers can be hired from abroad. If there are no able persons in the community, then who is responsible for that? Does God want Christians to remain underdogs? God actually wants his people to prosper. If they have not prospered in Pakistan, then who is to blame? Human is the product of environment. Why Christians in Pakistan do not want to go for higher education is a question that Christian educators and leaders can find within themselves. Why their educational institutions have produced only Muslim able personalities in every field and not Christian able personalities?
On top of all, minorities should have their own strong media in English. Communication among themselves, with other citizens and with other nations is oxygen for minorities. To receive this oxygen, they need a sound, healthy, bold and tenacious press.