Teen Islam-to-Christianity convert tells Ohio judge reconciliation with parents not possibleBy Andrew Welsh-huggins, AP
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Ohio convert: Family reconciliation not possible
COLUMBUS, Ohio — A teenage runaway who fled Ohio with the alleged help of Christian pastors, claiming she’d be harmed for converting from Islam to Christianity, says a reconciliation with her Muslim parents is no longer possible.
Efforts by Ohio and Florida courts to reunify Rifqa Bary with her family have failed and she continues to fear being hurt by her parents, according to a court filing by Bary’s attorneys.
“Bary continues to refuse any contact with her parents and has made clear that she does not foresee a time when she will agree to have any contact with her parents,” Bary’s attorneys said in the Monday filing in Franklin County Juvenile Court.
Bary, 17, wants Judge Elizabeth Gill to rule that a reunion is impossible and that it’s not in Bary’s best interest to be returned to her native Sri Lanka. A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.
Bary’s parents, Mohamed and Aysha Bary, pulled out of a deal last month that would have included counseling as part of a reunion effort. The parents alleged that the county child welfare agency, which now has custody of the girl and which developed the reconciliation plan, was still allowing her to talk to the Florida pastor and his wife who sheltered Rifqa there.
Police in Columbus are investigating whether anyone broke the law helping Bary leave home for Florida in July.
Bary’s father alleges a Columbus minister drove Bary to a Greyhound station where she received a bus ticket and took a bus to Orlando, Fla. There, she stayed with the minister and his wife — whom she met through Facebook — for about two weeks before the state of Florida took custody of her.
Monday’s filing also alleges Bary would be harmed or killed if she returns to Sri Lanka and raises questions about the girl’s legal status in the United States.
The document notes that federal law allows “an undocumented immigrant minor” to receive permanent resident status when placed in long-term foster care by a judge.
Bary’s legal status has not previously been an issue in her case. The attorneys who filed the document are under a gag order and can’t comment.
The filing alleges Bary has been threatened by Muslim fundamentalists in Sri Lanka and that she could be killed for converting if she returns.
Because of “the death threats from extremists and third parties in Sri Lanka, Ms. Bary legitimately fears being forced to return to her home country,” the filing said.
Police in Florida and Columbus found no evidence the girl faced harm in Ohio.
Tags: Asia, Columbus, Florida, Geography, North America, Ohio, Religious Doctrines And Belief Systems, South Asia, Sri Lanka, United States