Written by Don Byrd

Politico reports that President Trump’s recent threat to sanction Turkey for detaining American pastor Andrew Brunson is being seen by many as a first step in ratcheting up the administration’s response to religious persecution worldwide. Activists and leaders working on the issue of international religious freedom are voicing optimism.

It remains to be seen how Trump will follow up on his tweeted threat to Turkey, and White House and State Department officials did not respond to questions about what form sanctions would take or when they might go into effect.

“Even though [the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)] has recommended multiple times that targeted sanctions be deployed by the White House, nothing has ever happened,” USCIRF Vice Chair Kristina Arriaga said. “The same people who are torturing Uyghurs in China or Christians in Iraq are able to send their wives and children here to go Christmas shopping in New York. This is a travesty. For the first time in 20 years, I feel that this is an administration that’s willing to take action.”

The sanctions authorized by the International Religious Freedom Act have been used only twice in the 20 years of the law’s existence, according to Politico.

The State Department is hosting a 3-day Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, which focuses on international religious freedom issues. Time will tell whether the event, which has brought together religious and government leaders from more than 80 countries, leads to more dialogue and action to protect the victims of religious prosecution and discrimination, or whether, as Politico reports some attendees perceive it is “just for show.”