Dr. Nazir Bhatti asked Stephen Gill if he was also a human rights activist. The question was published in the month of July of 2002. It is being reproduced here with some additions. Dr. Bhatti is the managing editor of Pakistan Christian Post, published from New York, and has authored Trial of Pakistani Christian Nation that contains the most valuable material for human rights activists.
Dr. Stephen Gill Answers: You are one hundred percent right. I am a human rights activist also. It is one aspect or the 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 is the concern of every citizen. The declaration of human rights passed by the United Nations have 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.
ADDENDUM: In my interview with Dr. Peggy Z. Lynch, published in Poetry in the Arts in No 23 in January 2001, I said:
I believe that to maintain law and order situations, it is necessary to respect the human rights of minorities. If minorities are not happy, there will be no happiness within the territory. Systematic violations of human rights, particularly when they are state-sponsored, lead to counter agitation and eventually to war that divides the nation. Any nation that is founded on hatred and bloodshed cannot be at peace. I believe that bloodshed has never been able to solve any problem. This is one of the fronts of my crusade.
We are living in a global village in which hatred and unfair laws produce international reactions easily. It may create refugee problems also. Several refugees may be fake. These fakes, as well as the genuine refugees, may use foreign lands for their terrorist activities. The unrest within a country may give headaches to the bordering nations. The unrest within the country hampers the growth of economic health. The worst sufferers are minorities because they are the soft targets.
It is in the interest of the majority to take care of their minorities. In other words, there cannot be peace in that country which does not respect the human rights of minorities.
In preface to The Flame, my modern epic on terrorism, I say:
The Flame is about peace and peace is the main area of my exploration. There are several minor areas that also relate to peace, including human rights, treatment of the minority by the majority and antiwar activities. I have tried to attempt these areas in the light of my ideology of peace. Just to talk of peace is meaningless. There should be also some concrete ideology and activities. That is what I have attempted in my prose.
Peace has been my main interest in my prose, poetry and also in my talks. As I have mentioned in my articles and prefaces, the source of my inspiration is my early childhood. Lack of security in the country of my birth was responsible for my search. I did not give up this hunt even in the countries where I was comfortably secure.
Let me conclude that I am a poet, fiction writer, literary critic, as well as a human rights activist. I write for peace and as a peace activist I am a human rights activist. Both are closely connected.
(StephenGill, a multiple award-winning Indo/Canadian self-exiled poet, fiction writer, and essayist, has authored more than thirty books. He is the subject of doctoral dissertations and thirteen books of critical studies have been released. The focus of his writing is live and let live. Available For: writer or poet in residence)