COLUMBUS, Ohio — A runaway Christian convert and her Muslim family must listen to each other's views about religion if they are to reunite, a possibility that appears in jeopardy since the girl continues to refuse any contact with her parents or siblings, a caseworker says.
A case-management plan filed Monday said Rifqa Bary and her parents should hear what each has to say about Islam and Christianity as a step toward reunification. But the plan, written by a government caseworker, also said "severe differences" exist between the 17-year-old girl and her parents over what led Rifqa to run away to Florida.
She said she fears her father would harm or kill her for leaving Islam. Her father denies it.
"Parents concern is that Rifqa has a false perception of their religious beliefs and that her understanding creates a barrier to reunification," wrote Margaret Shirk, a Franklin County Children Services Board caseworker. "Rifqa's concern is that her parents do not understand her practice of Christianity."
Rifqa's parents, Mohamed and Aysha Bary, agree with their daughter being in foster care for the moment, but would like a family relationship with her again, according to the plan.
Shirk's plan says Rifqa has made clear she wants no contact with her parents or brothers.
The plan calls for finding other relatives or nonrelatives that Rifqa could be placed with if reunification isn't a possibility. The goal is to bring them together by Aug. 10, when the girl turns 18, after which she would could leave foster care.
The girl's family is originally from Sri Lanka and emigrated in 2000 to seek medical help for Rifqa, who had lost sight in her right eye when she fell and struck a toy airplane at home.
Rifqa disappeared July 19. Police used phone and computer records to track her to the Rev. Blake Lorenz, pastor of Global Revolution Church in Orlando. Authorities said the teen had met him through a Facebook group.