Anyone keeping up with Pakistani Christian news in the past few months has definitely seen this young photo journalist’s work. From his coverage of the funerals of a Christian air hostess that was killed recently in a deadly plane crash, and Pakistani hero Cecil Chaudhry -- to his work alongside two documentary filmmakers raising awareness about the Christian community; many of us have come across his photos, and some may have seen his YouTube videos but that begs the question – who IS he?
Well, he definitely piqued my interest anyhow, which is why The PC Inquirer got in touch with Sunny Gill to bring you an exclusive interview about this amazing 25 year old Pakistani Christian.
Q. So Sunny Gill, where were you born and raised?
A. I was born in Karachi and was raised there as well; I have had all of my education in Karachi. I am from a middle class family; my father was working in a hotel line. We are five siblings, including me and we all live together in a rented home with my parents. I am the youngest in my family.
Q. Photo journalism is a very unique occupation for a Pakistani Christian – how did you learn your trade? Did you go to school for it?
A. Actually I learn because I am passionate about it, and through experience. I have done my associate engineering in automobile engineering.
Q. Wonderful! So tell me a little bit about your faith.
A. I am Roman Catholic by practice, but I don’t believe in denomination. Denominations, I think are making distances between people and today if our Christian people around the globe are weak it has a lot to do with the disjoint that the body of Christ has due to denominations.
Q. So we touched on your photo journalism earlier but tell me, how did you start?
A. As I said, photography is my passion. When I purchased my first camera and started taking pictures of nature I realized that I clearly had a skill – and I should use it for God’s work. I wanted to cover and share my people’s pain as well. The Bible says: “Speak up for those who cannot speak themselves” and for me, photography is my voice. Through pictures I can convey my message – in one picture it’s possible to tell a whole story.
That’s not to say it’s always been easy. Because of my work I have been threatened by extremist groups – specifically for my coverage of the case of Magdeline Ashraf; who is a Christian nurse who was raped by a Muslim doctor in 2010.
|Sunny Gill's Photography for World Day Against Child Labour, June 12.|
Q. That is quite scary, but I am glad to see how determined you are to keep going! Are you working alone? Or do you work with any organizations/newsgroups?
A. I started working as correspondent for several online international news groups in 2009, when I was working in a call center. Many of my articles are still available online, with news and pictures. I’m also a part of Union Catholic Asian News (UCAN).
Q. Tell us about some of your past projects.
A. I love photography and videography. I’ve made many documentaries, especially on persecuted Christians because it’s often difficult for people on the outside to reach them.
Currently I am not working with any NGOs but at the time of the floods in Pakistan I worked alongside many international NGOs who would come to distribute food, clothes, etc. to affected people.
Q. Is there anything that you are currently working on that you’d like to share with us?
A. Well I’d like to make a video documentary on Christians role in the field of education. Everyone that has been educated in missionary schools and that includes a very large population here in Pakistan – they all know that after partition only Parsi and Christian institutions were in Pakistan to educate everyone. It’s a bitter truth for those who are anti-Christian but the Pakistani Christian community has been undoubtedly significant in the fields of medicine and education.
Q. What are your goals with your work?
A. I’d love to make this video documentary and many more and these days people tend to respond better to a higher quality product – so I will keep learning and extending my skills. Hopefully at some point I would like to get better equipment as well like an HD video camera.
Q. How can people get in touch with you and support your work?
A. I’m running a Christian page/forum on Facebook called Christians in Pakistan where I share Christian issues and promote events and festivals that our community is organizing in Pakistan.
It’s not really about supporting me, although I do appreciate support very much – but I want people who are living abroad to continue to help their brothers and sisters here in Pakistan like I see other religious groups doing. Ahmadi and Agha Khani Muslims have their own problems with discrimination and such but I can see how their people have banded together to support each other, I just want the same for my own.
I’m an eye witness to a case where a man whose concern for his wife’s delivery costs grew too much for them and he went from place to place, person to person asking for help – but there was no one there for him. When it came closer to the date he felt so helpless and committed robbery, the man was caught and was arrested by the police and is still in jail. No Christian here or there could help him with something that for many is a nominal cost.
I just want our people to help each other. I’ve seen so many empty vessels on Facebook and other social networking sites that make a lot of noise but when it comes to practical support they practically hide under their beds.
Well that is really food for thought, thank you so much for sharing your experiences and encouraging others to believe when the Bible tells us “faith without action is dead!”