COLUMBUS, Ohio (BP)–Rifqa Bary, the teenager who ran away from her Muslim parents after converting to Christianity, is free from the court battle that plagued her for more than a year because she turned 18 years old Aug. 10.
She had been in the care of a foster family in Columbus, Ohio, but Children Services terminated its custody of her on her birthday as expected, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
In May, Bary was diagnosed with uterine cancer and underwent three operations. A close friend at the time told the Orlando Sentinel that her situation was very serious and she would need to undergo several rounds of chemotherapy.
Bary declined to speak to the media after her court appearance Tuesday, but her attorneys provided a few comments.
“She has suffered so much, and there have been so many traumatic events at this time,” attorney Angela Lloyd said.
Regarding her future, Lloyd said, “She looks forward to ‘preaching the word to all the nations.’ And those are her words…. She’s trying to be Rifqa Bary, the Christian evangelist who’s ready to go out and change the world.”
Her parents, meanwhile, released a statement asking their daughter to reconcile with the family, which includes an older brother, Rilvan.
“No matter what has happened, you will always be our daughter, we love you, and the door will always be open if you want to have a relationship with us,” Mohamed and Aysha Bary, who also appeared in court, said. “Until then, we wish you all the best.”
The Barys said the case “shows the tragic consequences of allowing zealot attorneys to stand between a teenage girl and her parents.” They have urged her to continue chemotherapy, but she is opting not to proceed with the treatment.
Without chemotherapy, her doctors warned of a high risk of tumor recurrence and possible spread of the cancer, according to her parents’ statement.
Also in their statement, the Barys criticized Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who got involved in the case when Rifqa fled from her Columbus home to Orlando to live with a husband-wife team of evangelical ministers.
“It seems from time to time Florida politicians and lawyers make a mess out of private family law cases to serve their political ambitions,” the Barys said. “That this is done in the name of ‘family values’ is the height of hypocrisy.”
The girl ran away to Florida in July 2009, saying that her Muslim father threatened to kill her for becoming a Christian. Florida’s Department of Children and Families took emergency protective custody of her in August 2009 and placed her with foster parents. Her parents denied the accusations, and on Oct. 13 a judge ordered her returned to Ohio, where she was placed in the custody of a local children’s services agency.
In an affidavit filed in August 2009, Bary said her father, a jeweler, found a copy of “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren hidden in her bedroom. He had a serious talk with her about retaining the Islamic bloodline in their family, she said, adding that she didn’t admit her conversion.
After receiving e-mails and phone calls from the family’s mosque, the Noor Islamic Cultural Center, urging him to “deal with this matter immediately,” Bary’s father asked her if she had converted to Christianity.
“In a fit of anger that I had never seen before in my life, he picked up my laptop, waved it over my head as if to strike me with it and said, ‘If you have this Jesus in your heart, you are dead to me! You are no longer my daughter,'” Bary said in the affidavit, according to the Florida Baptist Witness newspaper.
“I continued to remain silent and then he said to me even more angry than before, ‘I will kill you! Tell me the truth!” Bary said.
Bary’s father, meanwhile, claims his daughter has been brainwashed by the Orlando husband-wife ministers she contacted shortly after arriving in town. She reportedly became acquainted with Blake and Beverly Lorenz of Global Revolution Church through a prayer group on Facebook.
Bary graduated from high school in the spring but still faces possible deportation to her native Sri Lanka because of her illegal immigration status. Her attorneys would not comment on that issue.
“She has views and beliefs, and the sooner the parents come to understand and recognize that, the sooner there could be down the road some reconciliation,” Kort Gatterdam, another Bary attorney, said.
Compiled by Baptist Press staff writer Erin Roach.