Father blames daughter’s fears on pastors
The Muslim parents of an Ohio teenager who fled to Florida fearing an “honor killing” for converting to Christianity today blamed their daughter’s fears on the husband and wife pastors who took their daughter in and didn’t report her presence for more than two weeks.
“Neither Mr. or Mrs. Bary have ever threatened the life of their daughter, and patiently await their daughter’s safe return,” Craig McCarthy, a lawyer for Mohamed Bary and his wife, said in a statement issued today to “Good Morning America.”
Fathima Rifqa Bary, who goes by Rifqa, left home in New Albany, Ohio, last month and hopped on a bus to Orlando to meet with husband and wife pastors Blake and Beverly Lorenz, who she met through a Facebook prayer group for the couple’s non-denominational Global Revolution Church.
The couple have become the 17-year-old girl’s biggest allies, saying she has told them that her father threatened to kill her when he found out she had secretly become a Christian.
“To anyone’s knowledge, Rifqa never told anyone that she was frightened while living with her parents in Ohio. Those words only came out of her mouth after being missing for two and a half weeks and surfacing in the tight embrace of Mr. Lorenz, who had not promptly reported that the runaway had been in his home,” the parents’ statement read.
Lorenz could not immediately be reached today for comment, but told ABCNews.com Tuesday that he and his wife weren’t even aware Rifqa’s parents had reported her missing until she’d been at their house for more than two weeks.
Bary is now in Florida fighting to bring his daughter home. A judge Monday ordered Rifqa to remain in the custody of the Florida Department of Children and Families while authorities in that state and Ohio determine whether or not she’d be safe at home.
Fathima Bary converted to Christianity and said her Muslim father threatened to kill her for dishonoring the family. Her father is on the defense, while the Islamic Society of Central Florida said its faith doesn’t condone murder and wonders if the religious runaway is nothing more than a troubled teen.
Mohamed Bary said he denies he ever threatened to kill his 17-year-old daughter for turning her back on the family’s Muslim faith by becoming a Christian. He said he believes the Ohio girl fled to Florida last month after being brainwashed by the pastor of Global Revolution Church of Orlando, who she met on Facebook.
“This is a cult group who kidnapped my daughter and took her away,” Mohamed Bary said.
The Rev. Blake Lorenz spoke with WESH 2 News earlier this week.
“She’s just afraid for life,” he said.
He’s now out of the country on vacation, but by phone he said he didn’t coerce Fathima Bary to change faiths.
“She has been a Christian for four years, long before we ever met her,” he said.
Rifqa, a high school junior in well-off suburban New Albany, had been questioning her faith for several months, her father said. She attended church with friends from school and later attended services at another church, Xenos Christian Fellowship, a megachurch that emphasizes small groups meeting at home.
The church has no record of her being a member but says it’s possible given the size of the church — nearly 5,000 members, said spokesman Jay Reilly.
After Rifqa proselytized with a Bible at school, Mohamed Bary said, the family asked her to stop because it wasn’t an appropriate activity in school. They also told her she had an obligation to study her original faith first, before choosing another.
But Mohamed Bary says they never threatened to kill or harm the girl. “She is still my daughter,” said Bary, 47, a jeweler.