JISHOU, HUNAN — Fathima Rifqa Bary, 17, who made headlines several months ago after she ran away from her Muslim parents claiming they would kill her as an Islamic apostate, is being treated for uterine cancer.
The Sri Lankan-born high school graduate has had two operations already, and awaits a third.
Bary ran away to Florida in July with the help of a Christian pastor who had befriended her. Once arriving in Orlando, the girl, who says she converted to Christianity at 13, lived with married pastors Blake and Beverly Lorenz for nearly two weeks before the Lorenzes told child welfare officials where Bary was.
In interviews, Bary claimed that her parents were upset with her conversion and that she was afraid that her father would kill her if she returned home. Law enforcement officials from Florida and Ohio, however, reported there was no credible threat to her safety.
Nevertheless, Bary has lived with foster parents in her hometown of Columbus, Ohio, after her court-ordered return to Ohio in October. She turns 18 in August, at which point she will be able to leave foster care.
Her conversion and flight to Florida have become a rallying point for anti-Islamic Christian polemicists, who have used Bary as a “poster child” for honor killings, though there was never any real threat to her life. Meanwhile, they have accused Bary’s parents and their mosque of being Islamic extremists, though again there is no evidence of the allegations.
The whole situation is a sad commentary on the abuse of religious belief. That a young girl is so ill is even more tragic.