A judge has ordered mediation in the case of a teen girl who says her family threatened to kill her for converting from Islam to Christianity.
The 17-year-old girl, Rifqa Bary, ran away from her family in Columbus, Ohio, in July and took refuge in the home of the Rev. Blake Lorenz with the Global Revolution Church in Orlando, Florida. Bary’s parents want her back home. At a court hearing Thursday in Orlando, the girl’s parents denied all the allegations against them. Also at the hearing, Judge Daniel Dawson of the Orange County Juvenile Court ordered the girl and her parents to seek the mediation within 30 days. The judge had previously ruled that the girl will remain in Florida foster care until the allegations are resolved. The parents, Mohamed and Aysha Bary, could not attend the hearing in person but listened through a telephone conference as their lawyer spoke for them. They denied they ever threatened to kill their daughter because she converted to Christianity. Mohamed Bary told CNN he believes a lot of false information has been circulated about the case. “We wouldn’t do her harm,” the father said, adding that he knew his daughter was involved with Christian organizations. “I have no problem with her practicing any faith,” he said. But Bary conceded he would have preferred that his daughter practice the Muslim faith first.
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The teen had heard of pastor Lorenz 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, 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!” Watch the teen talk about her fears Also at Thursday’s hearing, the judge sealed a report on the girl from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and issued a gag order for attorneys in the case. At one point during the hearing, the girl’s court-appointed guardian, Krista Bartholomew, told the court: “This is not a holy war but a case about a broken family.”
Outside the courthouse after the hearing, a Muslim activist and several Christian activists exchanged words over the case. Watch the heated exchanges Another hearing is scheduled for September 29 if the family is not able to resolve the conflict through mediation.