Saints of the
New Millennium
Faith stories of ordinary Catholics in Asia

Pakistani insurance agent keeps hopes alive with unwavering faith

Gill’s boss suggested he drop his Christian name from his visiting card, but he refused ‘because it would be rejecting my faith’
Manzoor Anthony Gill poses for a photograph while seated in his office in Faisalabad, Pakistan.

Manzoor Anthony Gill poses for a photograph while seated in his office in Faisalabad, Pakistan. (Photo supplied)

By Aftab Alexander Mughal

Manzoor Anthony Gill prays daily each morning with his family in their apartment in Warispura, a Christian-majority area in the east-central Pakistani city of Faisalabad.

“After breakfast, we pray together for our day ahead. Sometimes, we say our own prayers if I am in a hurry, or my son is going to college early,” the 55-year-old father told UCA News.

Gill is an insurance agent for the government-run State Life Insurance Corporation of Pakistan. “Despite all the hard work, there are days when I don’t sell even a single policy. That’s quite frustrating,” he said.

But he keeps pushing himself. “I don’t give up as my faith in God gives me hope and encouragement,” he adds.

Gill lives with his 80-year-old mother, wife, and son in a tiny two-room apartment in a working-class neighborhood. They reside in a predominantly Christian area but must venture out for work — Gill is the only Christian in his office.

Faisalabad is a major industrial hub in Punjab province and Pakistan's third largest city, but most of its denizens are poor and uneducated.

“It is hard to convince them to buy an insurance policy, especially for a loved one,” he said explaining that it is taboo to speak about the possible death of a close relative in Pakistani society.

Even so, they cannot afford to pay for insurance that is useful only after a death, he added.

Gill earns around US$140 a month, but considers himself lucky to have a secure government job that pays him on time.

“There are many Christians who don’t have a permanent job or a regular income,” he said.

Gill checks insurance documents for a client at his office in Faisalabad, Pakistan. (Photo supplied)

Problems faced as a Christian

Gill’s family relocated to Warispura five years ago after he was accused of insulting Islam in a mixed Christian-Muslim locality where they lived at the time.

The allegation led to riots, the destruction of Christian homes and churches, and even a lynching incident. However, Gill and his family survived the ordeal unharmed. 

“It was a terrifying time. I feared angry Muslims would attack my house. But thank God our Muslim neighbors protected me,” he recalled.

Gill is certain it was God who saved him. He left the area and chose to live in a Christian-majority neighborhood.

However, challenges due to his Christian identity remain.

“Potential clients often refuse to deal with me because of my Christian identity,” he says.

Christians are looked down upon in Pakistani society because most of them are descendants of lower-caste Hindus who changed religion a century ago during British colonial rule.

While Manzoor and Gill are cultural names, Muslims easily identify his faith from his Christian name, Anthony.

Christians are often refused jobs and business opportunities because of their faith. 

Gill’s manager advised him to drop Anthony from his visiting card. But he refused “because it would be rejecting my faith.”

Instead, he’s chosen to walk the extra mile when it comes to offering better services to the company’s clients. And this has made him a popular agent.

He has also sharpened his communication skills by undergoing special training.

But above all, he is always ready to help poor and uneducated people who struggle to get insurance benefits after the death of a loved one.

“Some people ask me why I help them. I tell them it is because of my faith. They appreciate me and I get satisfaction from having the opportunity to proclaim my faith in public,” he said.

Over the years, he has had a sizable number of satisfied clients who continue to buy insurance from him and also recommend him to others.

Gill is seen looking for clients to sell life insurance policies to in Faisalabad, Pakistan. (Photo supplied)

Happy family life

Gill, the eldest of seven children, dropped out of high school because of his family’s poverty. His father Noor Masih’s earnings as a driver with a government agency were hardly enough to feed the family.

To support the family, Gill worked as a painter and did other odd jobs before joining the insurance company in 1988. He even delayed getting married until 1999 to avoid burdening his parents, but ensured his siblings were married off and settled in life.

His father’s death in 2010 came as a blow. Gill’s wife, Seraphine, 59, and son, Joyel, 22, are aware of his daily struggles and emotional turmoil.

“My father has struggled a lot to put me through the best school in the area and finance my diploma course to help me become a chef,” Joyel told UCA News.

Joyel is an active member of a youth group at the Pentecostal Church in Bilal Town, in Faisalabad.

“It is my biggest satisfaction as a father that he is actively involved in the church,” Gill said.

He credited his wife, who is older than him, for helping him and the entire family to follow a prayerful and virtuous life.

Like his late father, Gill wanted to become a professional footballer. “We both could not pursue our passion because of our religious identity and financial situation,” he said.

To this day, he remains a football fan. But his son likes cricket and music.

“My only desire for Joyel is that he becomes successful and can pursue his interests,” Gill said.

As far as he is concerned, Gill is happy to be fulfilling God’s plan for him.

Away from work, he loves spending time with his family and helping his neighbors.

“Gill has good relations with everyone in the neighborhood,” said Naveed Walter, a local social worker. “People come to him for advice, whether it’s personal problems or whatever.” 

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Gill and his family suffered like everyone else in the community. But they prayed every evening and invited their relatives and neighbors to join them.

“It was a difficult time for everyone. But it was a great blessing that we never slept without food. God provided all our needs. That strengthened my faith and made me humble,” Gill said.

Gill and his family pray after a meal at their home in Faisalabad, Pakistan. (Photo supplied)

Faith strengthens life

Despite all the challenges he continues to face, Gill views his faith in God as the most important thing in life.

“I am a weak person, but God gives me strength to fulfill my responsibilities at home, in the workplace, and in the community,” he said.

His only comfort, during the most difficult times, is prayer.

He’s thankful for being born into a Christian family and fondly remembers the days when as a child he would join his grandfather at Sunday Mass.

As he grew up, he came in close contact with Catholic priests, catechists, and even Protestant pastors.

“We welcome them all to our home,” he said.

To this day, Christians regardless of their denomination visit his home.

When he is feeling low, he still seeks solace in his mother’s arms.

“I go to my mother who prays for me and reassures me. Sometimes, I may even visit my father’s friends who are very kind to me,” Gill said.

“It’s a true blessing. Their presence is very special as we learn the word of God from them,” he explained.

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