Life has been a long and difficult road for Rifqa Bary, her 2009 conversion from Islam to Christianity put her life in jeopardy and led to her being a teenager on the run.
A Sri Lanka native whose parents said they brought her to the United States because of an eye injury inflicted by her brother, Rifqa and her family actually came to the U.S. because Rifqa had been sexually assaulted by an extended family member.
Along with the sexual assault, Rifqa Bary would also go on to fight cancer and become entangled in the confusing world of U.S. law, all while fearing her Dad, or representatives from her family’s Mosque, meant to kill her.
Now 22-years-old, Rifqa Bary has so far lived to tell about her sad, terrifying, but ultimately uplifting journey in her book, Hiding in the Light: Why I Risked Everything to Leave Islam and Follow Jesus, reports KFI 640, Los Angeles.
In a Thursday interview with KFI’s Bill Carroll, Rifqa related the threat of death she feels still hangs over her head, saying that her family Mosque once told her father, “If you don’t deal with your daughter, we will.”
“And how did you interpret that?” Carroll asked Rifqa Bary.
“It meant death,” replied Rifqa.
It was 2009 when Rifqa Bary, at 16-years-old, converted from her Muslim family religion and was baptized a Christian. Fearing the reactions of her parents, the teen ran away from her Ohio home and sought sanctuary with a pastor in Florida, reports Charisma News.
Converting to Christianity, coupled with being sexually assaulted, put Rifqa at great risk of becoming the victim of an “honor killing,” a fate suffered by some Muslim women who are perceived to have dishonored their family, usually because their virginity has been lost outside of marriage or because they’ve converted from the Muslim religion.
So for Rifqa she had two strikes against her when she decided to run away to Florida, not to mention the “honor killing” conversation she overheard between her father and the Bary family’s Mosque.
Despite her “lost” virginity being the result of sexual assault, this fact doesn’t matter, Rifqa Bary’s lost virginity still being perceived as a “dishonor” to her family. Her damaged eye, also no fault of her own, is also a perceived flaw, as Rafiq explains in Hiding in the Light.
“In some Muslim cultures, like mine, this kind of violation (sexual assault) is a great source of dishonor. Yet the shame is not attached to the abuser; it is cast on the victim. So not only was I viewed now in my parents’ eyes as a half-blind picture of imperfection, but I was also a shameful disgrace to the Bary name. My mere presence and appearance were a stain against the most important thing of all — our family honor.”
According to the Orlando Sentinel, Rifqa Bary, who is now a college sophomore, went on to suffer through legal fights as her parents tried to force her back to Ohio, being arrested, ending up in the Ohio state foster care program, and finally, inexplicably, being diagnosed with a rare form of uterine cancer just before graduating high school as the valedictorian.
But through it all, Rifqa Bary continues not just to survive, but to thrive, her cancer “somehow in remission” despite her ceasing treatments and being given only one year to live when she was diagnosed.
Even so, the threat of retribution from the Bary family or Mosque remains a concern.
“Here I am, trying to live a fairly normal life,” she said. “I’m a student, I’m involved in church but I have this story, and it’s an impacting story, and I still feel like my life is in danger. I don’t live in fear all the time but I still have to be wise and cautious.”
[Random House promotional image of Rifqa Bary via Charisma News]