Helpers of Runaway Christian Convert Won't be Charged

The six adults that helped the Muslim teen girl who converted to Christianity run away from her Ohio home will not be charged.

Prosecutors in the states of Ohio and Florida have decided to not file charges against the adults, including two Orlando pastors, for helping Rifqa Bary leave her Columbus, Ohio, Muslim family to hideout in Florida, according to an investigation of police reports by The Associated Press. Police had recommended filing charges against the six adults who aided the then underage Bary run away from home.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien said his decision was due to "a combination of things," including the difficulty of re-interviewing some of the adults involved, AP reported Sunday. And the Orange and Osceola County State Attorney Lawson Lamar had already closed the Florida case months ago.

In 2009, the case of Rifqa Bary gained national attention and escalated Muslim-Christian tension in the United States by putting a face to the issue of honor killing. Bary, who was then 16 years old, ran away from her Muslim family alleging that her life was in danger for converting to Christianity.

Christians rallied in support of Bary on Facebook and in front of the courthouse during her custody hearings. Even Florida state lawmakers had spoken in defense of Bary. The convert to Christianity, who was often seen reading the Bible during the hearings, was helped by a number of adults who provided shelter, transportation and a plan that allowed Bary to board a Greyhound bus to Florida.

In Florida, she was housed by Pastor Blake Lorenz of Global Revolution Church in Orlando and his wife, Beverly. Bary had reached out to Beverly Lorenz on Facebook just days before boarding the Greyhound bus and had asked for help, sharing that she was afraid of being killed for leaving Islam.

After about two weeks at the Lorenz home, Bary was discovered and was taken into Florida state custody. After a long and high-profile custody battle in Florida, the teen girl was moved to Ohio and stayed with a foster family to undergo court-ordered reconciliation sessions with her family.

Bary's parents throughout the ordeal have vehemently denied that they would harm their daughter for leaving the faith.

Last August, Bary turned 18 and was released from the reconciliation process with her family. About a month after her 18th birthday, she also gained permanent residency in the United States on her own. Bary is originally from Sri Lanka and there was concern that she would be deported.

"They'd (prosecutors) have a very difficult time with any of those charges, given that Rifqa would say she was in fear of her life, and so they acted in what they thought were in her best interests," commented Kort Gatterdam, a Columbus attorney who represented Bary in juvenile custody hearings, to AP about why the prosecutors did not file charges against the adults that helped Bary run away.

Bary is still estranged from her parents and two brothers and now lives separately in another state.

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