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INTERVIEW
Interview with Kristin Wright of Stand Today
Kristin Wright is founder and Executive Director of Stand Today, a lobbying organization working on behalf of persecuted Christians worldwide. She has been featured on Chuck Colson's “Breakpoint”, Prime Time America, HCJB World Radio, Insight Magazine, and Townhall.com, among other publications.

Her website is Stand Today. You can also visit her blog at www.kristinwright.blogspot.com.
In this interview with Christian Monitor, she talks about her work, and provides suggestions for Christians wishing to do more to help the victims of persecution.
Please tell us the Stand Today story. How did you get started?

I have had an interest in the persecuted church since I was eleven or twelve years old. That's when I first found out that many Christians worldwide face violent persecution simply because of their faith. I read about their plight, and I took action by writing letters to prisoners, their families, and to government officials who could help them. Early attempts at lobbying, I suppose!

During high school and after, I rather lost interest in the issue. I became involved in politics on a local level. I studied art. After graduation, I took a full-time position as a web designer. But after a year, I knew I wanted to do something different. My thoughts returned to the plight of persecuted Christians, and I started praying about what I could do for them.

It was then that I read the transcript of an interview with a German medical doctor named Norbert Vollertsen. Dr. Vollertsen had spent 18 months doing medical relief work in North Korea, and the plight of orphaned children and persecuted Christians there had horrified him. In the interview, he spoke of gas chambers and modern-day concentration camps where Christians were confined simply because of their faith. It broke my heart. And Dr. Vollertsen went further. He spoke of how he had traveled to many different countries throughout Europe, attempting to raise awareness and get people involved. Tragically, few were interested. Even hearing of the ghastly punishments reserved for Korean Christians in the DPRK failed to touch the hearts of the people he met.

Dr. Vollertsen was convinced that the power to effect change lay with a specific group of people: the Church. He said that even North Korea's harsh dictator Kim Jong Il was afraid of the awesome power of Christianity, and that if the free church would rise up and speak out on behalf of the oppressed, the outcome could be incredible.

His words seemed to cut right through me. I believed in what he was saying with all of my heart; the same desire was inside of me. I knew that I needed to go to the free Western Church specifically, and "wake up" Christians who otherwise would have no idea of the plight of persecuted people, or how to help them.

I started Stand Today in 2002 as an online effort for Christians to connect and speak out on behalf of their suffering brothers and sisters. It's a fast-paced world, and advocating for persecuted Christians is one of those things that really should be fast-paced! So I put together a website that makes it easy for anyone to take action on behalf of the persecuted church. Beyond signing petitions, printing out flyers, and sending informative emails to others, the most important thing to do on www.StandToday.org is sign up as a volunteer. It's so important to join with other Christians in this common cause.

Now, nearly three years later, we are a non-profit organization with an online community of thousands of members. We're still focused on lobbying for freedom and better treatment for persecuted Christians, and we're still committed to telling the free church about the plight of their suffering brothers and sisters. Those are our two main goals.

You are also a journalist. What publications do you write for, and on what topics?

I write to incite awareness and action. The last article I wrote was for Insight magazine, a division of the Washington Times. I wrote this particular article to rally critical support for the North Korea Human Rights Act, which was at that time stalled in the Senate. I'm a founding member of the North Korea Freedom Coalition (NKFC) and they wanted to publish an article that would help give the legislation the support it needed.

We wanted something attention-getting, so I asked my friend Rosemary Schindler to co-write it with me. Having Rosemary join me in this was great because she is a relative of Oscar Schindler, the heroic man who saved 1,000 Jews from the Holocaust. So we wrote an article titled, "Auschwitz Again?". We wanted to draw a vivid comparison between the gas chambers of Auschwitz and today's gas chambers of North Korea.

It's amazing how you can set out to change something, and find yourself being changed in the process. Writing this article with Rosemary was an eye-opening experience for me. She wrote of a recent visit to Auschwitz, and recalled the horrific sights: the bin of shoes that victims had to take off before entering the gas chambers, the piles of eyeglasses, the personal items. It was amazing to think of the legacy of Oscar Schindler, and the incredible realization that 7,000 descendents of the Jews he rescued from that horrid place are alive today. I really felt as if Rosemary and I were sharing in that legacy by speaking out for today's concentration camp victims.

From your perspective, is the persecution of Christians worsening? And, if so, why?

Yes, I believe it is - because of one main reason: radical Islam. That is the simplest, most direct answer I can give. In the coming years we are going to see an expansion of radical Islam across the world, affecting millions of Middle Eastern and African Christians - unless it is stopped.

The Church needs to wake up to the credible threat that radical Islam poses to Christians worldwide. And we need to take action: speaking out on behalf of those who are already in its cruel grasp, and fighting for freedom and democracy in countries that are teetering on the brink of Islamization.

The Christian community in free nations has the power to affect foreign policy. We should definitely be exercising that power.

Which countries stand out for their appalling treatment of Christians?

Open Doors just released their 2005 World Watch List, and it records some of the most dangerous places in the world for Christians, with North Korea and Saudi Arabia topping the list. I quite agree. Ironically those two countries symbolize in my mind the future of anti-Christian persecution. It's fairly easy to predict that North Korea, as the "last stand" of communism, will fall (I believe soon) -- while Saudi Arabia's radical Islamic agenda will persist, expand, and continue to violently persecute Christians.

Do you think that Christians in the West are aware of the extent that some countries persecute our Christian brothers and sisters?

How can we possibly understand what persecuted believers go through? It is a question I ask myself time and again. On any given morning I wake up, take a hot shower, do my hair and makeup, and head to the kitchen for a cappuccino. I have everything I need - and want! I wear nice clothes, shop at the mall, and live in a comfortable house. I watch movies on Saturday nights, go out to restaurants, and hang out with friends.

How can I understand the plight of a woman who shivers behind a barbed wire fence in one of North Korea's concentration camps? Her feet are raw and bleeding, her hair is matted and her fingers are numb with the cold. She has been tortured, raped, and cruelly separated from her family. How can I possibly comprehend what she is going through? Yet I have something in common with her that goes far beyond simple solidarity: she is my sister in Christ.

Over my desk hangs this verse:

Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not He who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not He who guards your life know it? Will He not repay each person according to what he has done? (Proverbs 24:11-12)

No matter how distant we are from them, no matter how inadequate and self-centered we feel, we have a responsibility to the oppressed, to those "staggering toward slaughter." We need to find out what is happening, and take action to help those who are suffering.

Many Christians would like to help the victims of persecution. We pray, and we may donate money, but other than that I think that a lot of us aren’t sure what more we can do. Have you some suggestions?

I think we need to build momentum. That's what Stand Today is all about. Within the Western church specifically, I want to see a movement of compassionate action on behalf of the persecuted church.

In today's fast-paced world, I think that action for the persecuted church should be streamlined and effective. On www.standtoday.org, you can send an online petition, tell a friend about persecuted believers, donate online, download a flyer to post at your church, read an article, join a campaign, buy a book, and most importantly volunteer to become part of a wider movement to help the persecuted church - all with the click of a mouse.

God uses our efforts. The only thing that each of us really needs to do is simply "show up" for action. Say, "God, I'm ready, I'm willing, I want to make a difference for those who are persecuted," and then take action! Do the thing He calls you to do. Sometimes the most shocking thing is how much we can accomplish when we're willing to take a stand.

Kristin, thank you very much. Your own organization and website are splendid examples of how much one person can accomplish when she is willing to take a stand. Pray that many, many more will be inspired.

-Martin Roth (30-Apr-2005)