Published January 14, 2015
The Florida pastor who helped a 17-year old girl who fled from her home, fearing her Muslim parents would kill her for converting to Christianity, told MyFoxOrlando.com that he is hopeful the runaway will be able to stay in Florida even though a judge ruled she must return to Ohio.
"We expected Ohio would get jurisdiction... that's just the legal way it is," Paster Blake Lorenz told MyFoxOrlando.com. "But we are excited there is still a possibility she could stay in Florida, if the legal documents are not presented with her immigration. So you never know...maybe they don't have them."
Before the girl gets sent back, florida Judge Daniel Dawson said he needs immigration papers proving her status in the U.S. and proof from the state of Florida that she can continue her virtual schooling and receive credit in Ohio.
Lorenz claims he and his wife have been operating under the belief that Bary's parents may not be able to produce the required documents.
Bary's family came from Sri Lanka, and Lorenz said Rifqa did not think they would look for her for fear their immigration status would be revealed. They eventually did report her as missing, and Lorenz has since felt pressure from law enforcement and some segments of the public.
"My impression is they are not here legally anymore," Lorenz told MyFoxOrlando.com. "Originally, they were, this is all second hand. Rifqa told us they were not legal anymore... Meaning they didn't update their papers and they were afraid they'd be deported."
Another hearing is set for Oct. 23 for Bary's family to meet the required conditions for her return. If the conditions are met sooner Bary may stay with a foster family in Ohio until her dependency is decided in court.
Rifqa fled to Florida after her parents, Mohamed and Aysha Bary, learned that she was baptized earlier this year without their knowledge. The parents reported her missing to Columbus, Ohio, police on July 19. Weeks later, using cell phone and computer records, police tracked the girl to Lorenz, pastor of the Orlando-based Global Revolution Church.
In an emotional six-minute interview with WFTV in Florida, Bary, who met Lorenz through an online Facebook group, said she expects to be killed if she is forced to return to Ohio.
"If I had stayed in Ohio, I wouldn't be alive," she said. "In 150 generations in family, no one has known Jesus. I am the first — imagine the honor in killing me."
But a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation found no credible threats to Bary.
Contacted by FOXNews.com, Rifqa'a father Mohamed Bary said he has no intentions of harming his daughter.
"I love my daughter and I want her to come back to the family," he said, declining further comment.
The Barys reportedly emigrated from Sri Lanka in 2000 to seek medical treatment for Rifqa, who lost the sight in her right eye following an accident at home.