Q+A on Sri Lankan Christian Convert Rifqa (Rifka) Bary and 'Muslim Honour Killings'

Who is Rifqa (Rifka) Bary?

CNN
Rifqa Bary, 17, ran away from her family in Columbus, Ohio, in July and took refuge in the central Florida home of the Rev. Blake Lorenz with the Global Revolution Church in Orlando.

The teen heard of the pastor and his church through a prayer group on Facebook. The girl's parents reported her missing to Columbus police, who found her two weeks later in Florida through cell phone records.

The teenager, in a sworn affidavit, claims her father, Mohamed Bary, 47, was pressured by the mosque the family attends in Ohio to "deal with the situation." In the court filing, Rifqa Bary stated her father said, "If you have this Jesus in your heart, you are dead to me!" The teenager claims her father added, "I will kill you!"
Is her father an Islamic extremist who will kill her for converting?

The Colombus Dispatch

Sgt. Jerry Cupp of the missing-persons unit of the Columbus police special-victims bureau, disputes Fathima Rifqa Bary's allegation. He said her father, Mohamed Bary, appears to be a loving parent who knew about her conversion to Christianity months ago.
St. Petersburgh Times

Mohamed Bary said he has known for at least a year that his daughter was interested in Christianity. He said he had no problem with that, but at times suggested that she also study Islam.

They moved to this country from Sri Lanka almost 10 years ago. At New Albany High School, his daughter made nothing but A's and B's, and was a cheerleader, dressed perkily in a maroon uniform — a westernized teenage girl, he said, living in modern middle America.
How did a 17 year old manage to leave Ohio and get to Florida all alone?

Time Magazine

The saga began in mid-July when Rifqa, after a dispute with her parents, bolted from her home and rode a bus to Orlando. There she took refuge with the Rev. Blake Lorenz, the pastor of a conservative Christian congregation, the Global Revolution Church, and his wife Beverly, whom the cheerleader and honor student had met on Facebook. Almost three weeks later, on Aug. 6, the Lorenzes finally let authorities and Rifqa's frantic parents know the girl was with them. Then, a few days later, Rifqa dropped a bombshell to an Orlando television station: she had run away, she claimed, because her family, angry about her conversion to Christianity, had "threatened to kill me."
Mike Thomas

The Barys think Rifqa had help planning her disappearance. They don't know how else a 17-year-old who looks 12 or 13, with no driver's license, got to the Downtown Greyhound bus station or got the money for a ticket to Florida.

The Lorenzes told The Orlando Sentinel they were simply trying to help a child in danger by giving Rifqa a place to stay. They deny buying her a bus ticket to get to Florida and told the Sentinel they'd like to protect the identity of the person who did.

The Lorenzes were unreachable yesterday at their home listing, the church and Beverly Lorenz's cell phone. Authorities are not allowing Rifqa to speak to reporters.
Who is Blake Lorenz?

Joseph Cannon

.. the one called Lorenz seems to be a rising star in Looneyville:

" Recently God gave Blake a new call to share with the church, Israel, and the Gentile nations that the return of Jesus Christ is imminent. After 24 years as a United Methodist pastor and evangelist, Blake retired from the Methodist Church in obedience to Jesus Who told him to separate himself and serve only Him. This led to the founding of Global Revolution Ministries and Global Revolution Church, based in Orlando, Florida. "

He recently started a television ministry to proclaim his eschatology. I think we should all get the picture by this point. Falwell, Robertson and LaHaye are now old, while Swaggart, the Bakkers, the Crouches and Haggard all fell into scandal. Lorenz obviously hopes to replace them. Rifqa is his ticket to national fame.

Who is Rifqa's lawyer? Is it true he is Anti- Muslim?

Tampabay.com

This week, John Stemberger, the Christian social conservative who is representing Rifqa pro bono, filed a 33-page memo that portrayed the Noor Islamic Cultural Center as a terrorist stronghold. If Rifqa is not killed by her family, Stemberger has suggested, she will be killed by a member of Central Ohio's "radical" Muslim community.
Are Muslims required to kill converts?

WDBO Local News

Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons has a PhD in religion and teaches at the University of Florida. Her main area of study is Islamic law and its effect on women. She says honor killings actually predate Islam.

"It is not an Islamic practice," said Simmons. "It is not something you would find in the Quran. It is not in anyway something that Islam calls for or condones."

And Simmons says honor killings are not carried out because someone has left Islam.

"Generally, it has to do with questions about a woman or a girl's chastity," said Simmons.

Simmons says in some societies it's believed that killing a woman or girl who's committed a sexual sin restores the family's honor, and the practice is carried out by a male relative.

She characterizes honor killings as a cultural rather than a religious practice that happens primarily in a few countries in the Arab world.

"I'm amazed to even hear that a Muslim from Sri Lanka would threaten honor killing," said Simmons.

Simmons says honor killings are more common in a few Middle Eastern countries, but she says even there it's quite rare.
Who helped an underaged girl runaway from her family? Is it legal?

Davi Barker

"This guy is Jamal Jivanjee. Jamal Jivanjee claims to be a Muslim apostate from Columbus. He befriended Rifqa in Columbus long before she fled to Florida. He was also at the court house Friday August 21st. Bald guy with a goatee.

"If he's the coach in the first video, that means he went with Rifqa from Ohio to Florida. And that means that this is probably the guy that Lorenz is protecting when he says he doens't want to reveal who bought her the ticket.
St. Petersburg Times

Rifqa Bary, the Ohio teenager who ran away from her Muslim family, lived in the Orlando home of evangelical pastors Blake and Beverly Lorenz for 16 days before authorities knew where she was.

Florida law says you can't shelter an unmarried minor for more than 24 hours without calling either the authorities or the parents or guardians of the minor.

Sheltering an unmarried minor is a first-degree misdemeanor. First-degree misdemeanors are punishable by up to a year in prison.

The language of the law is clear. What's not clear is whether authorities are investigating the Lorenzes and what they did or didn't do when they took in the young Christian convert in late July.
Was Rifqa brainwashed by a Christian cult? Is she being coached to say the things she's saying?

Joseph Cannon

The Lorenzes have so far not commented on the accusation that they have coached the girl. Their refusal to speak with the media is, in my view, suspicious.

Which side is telling the truth? A big clue -- perhaps the only clue we really need -- can be found in this early statement from Rifqa:

The teenager, in a sworn affidavit, claims her father, Mohamed Bary, 47, was pressured by the mosque the family attends in Ohio to "deal with the situation." In the court filing, Rifqa Bary stated her father said, "If you have this Jesus in your heart, you are dead to me!"

Keep in mind that this is a court filing. Anyone (even a young person) swearing to an official statement will try -- or should try -- to reconstruct the actual wording of a quote, as opposed to offering a loose precis.

Question: How likely is it that the father would have uttered the phrase "If you have this Jesus in your heart"?

That kind of locution -- "Accept Jesus into your heart," "allow Jesus to enter your heart," "bring Jesus into your heart" and so forth -- is often uttered by evangelical Christian pastors and writers. The phrase is not so common among other types of Christians. You might hear a Catholic say such a thing every once in a great while, but Catholics do not use that terminology routinely. (They have their own set of stock phrases -- many of which are in Latin, which is way cool.)

Would a Muslim speak of letting Jesus into one's heart? Hardly!

Moreover, in evangelical fiction -- I'm thinking of Jack Chick comics, Christian TV historical dramas and similar propaganda -- it is pretty common to have "heathen" villains use the phrase "this Jesus." The words are usually given to Roman emperors and swarthy Eastern potentates. As in: "Wazir, my counselor, tell me: Who is this...Jesus? Why do all the slaves speak of this worker of wonders?" If you really want to do the line justice, you must include a long pause between "this" and "Jesus," and you have to sneer broadly as you utter the Name of Names.
What are the parents saying?

Tampabay.com

In the couple of months before she ran away, he [Rifqa's father] said, her behavior started to change: She stayed up late on the computer on Facebook, slept into the afternoons, read her Bible alone on the balcony outside, and would be sullen on rides in the car.

He wasn't so much concerned that she was going to Christian sites on the computer, he said, as he was worried that the people she seemed to be talking to on Facebook were older and male. Sometimes she got picked up by people he and his wife had never met, he said, and the people didn't come to the door, which made them uncomfortable.

"I never expected it to go this far," Mohamed Bary said this week. "I want my daughter to come home. I don't care what she practices. It's okay. But I want us all to be together."
Columbus Dispatch

Bary denies her claims and said she's been brainwashed by a Florida church.

"It's so sad," he said, sitting next to his wife, Aysha, and 18-year-old son, Rilvan. "They indoctrinated my daughter and ripped her away from my family."

Bary said yesterday that he wishes Rifqa had stayed Muslim, but that he supported her decision to become Christian. She is welcome to practice her new faith in his home, he said.

He and his family portrayed Rifqa as a sweet but gullible girl who genuinely believes she is in danger because of how others portrayed Islam to her.

She met fellow Christians online and eventually made contact with at least one of the leaders of Global Revolution Church in Orlando, Beverly Lorenz. Lorenz and her husband, Blake, are pastors of the church and housed Rifqa when she arrived in Florida after a long bus ride. The teen is now in foster care in Florida.

The Barys think Rifqa had help planning her disappearance. They don't know how else a 17-year-old who looks 12 or 13, with no driver's license, got to the Downtown Greyhound bus station or got the money for a ticket to Florida.
What does the court have to say?

The judge ordered the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and authoritites in Ohio to investigate Rifqa's claims, and to look into allegations of her life being in threat.

What have the investigations revealed?

Orlando Sentinel

Attorneys for the girl's parents had gone to court Thursday, hoping to get her sent back to Westerville, Ohio, her hometown.

They had ammunition to back up their argument: a report by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement that says her family poses no threat to her.

In Columbus, the Franklin County Department of Children Services has come to the same conclusion.

You can read about the trial here.

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