In the Longworth House office building on Capitol Hill, on an unusually warm April afternoon, Nina Shea is moving to the drumbeat of a southern Sudanese Shilluk tribal dance. The typically reserved, influential director of the Center for Religious Freedom (CRF) at Freedom House is with a broad coalition of clergy, congressional representatives, human-rights activists, and Sudanese war survivors. They are celebrating the January signing of Sudan's comprehensive North-South peace agreement.
Shea and the coalition she helped assemble have been pushing for agreement for more than a decade. The 22-year genocidal jihad waged by the ruling National Islamic Front against Sudan's predominantly Christian and animist South has ended. But Shea and others say they will not rest until peace is restored to Darfur, where a second genocide rages on.
Drawing attention to religious persecution around the globe is something Shea has learned to do well. She is described by her friends as forthright and direct, and by her critics as "shrill." No matter. Her reputation as an intensely focused, doggedly persistent advocate of religious freedom led Newsweek magazine to credit her with "making Christian persecution Washington's hottest cause."
Shea has been championing religious freedom and decrying human-rights violations since her days as a young lawyer with the International League for Human Rights in New York. She is currently vice chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), established by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. The commission advises the U.S. government on religious freedom around the globe. It is a job the savvy, 40-something, blonde mother of three has embraced with gusto. She has become ...