Sunday, August 30, 2009

Is Rifqa Bary Really in Danger for Her Life?

There is an interesting story that is getting a lot of attention here in Orlando about a young girl from Ohio that is accusing her Muslim family of threatening her life because of her conversion to Christianity from Islam. Rifqa Bary, a 17 year old high school student from Columbus, recently fled to Orlando to live with a Christian family who befriended her on the Internet.

You can catch up on some of the details in this article from the Orlando Sentinel. I honestly don't know what to think of this story. Many evangelical Christians have joined Rifqa's cause and believe her story of seeking to escape a strict Muslim family that is not accepting of her Christian faith. (In fact, while writing this post, I received an invitation from a friend to join a "Saving Rifqa Bary" group on Facebook.)

While I would like to believe that there is no truth to this story and that this is just another example of a teenager telling a tall-tale in order to exert her independence, I also know that what she is accusing her family of is not out of the realm of possibility. The reality is that in many parts of the world those that come from Muslim backgrounds that become followers of Jesus may very well find their lives in danger.

According to Open Doors USA, seven of the top ten countries that are most notorious today for the persecution of Christians are Muslim-majority nations. This certainly does not mean that every Muslim that has a family member convert to Christianity will act violently towards them. But I have been concerned how the local Orlando media has been so quick to dismiss Rifqa's assertions as a child's make-believe. For example, Mike Thomas, an Orlando Sentinel columnist whose writings I often enjoy, almost mocks even the possibility that Rifqa may be telling the truth.

Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, there has been a growing bias towards Muslims in the U.S., many of whom are law-abiding, tax paying American citizens. And many Christians have been guilty of not extending to their Muslim neighbors the same kind of courtesies that they would expect in return. However, this not does not mean that this young girl should be ignored. What she charges is serious and should be investigated.

If she has not been telling the truth, then she needs to face the consequences of making unfounded claims such as these. But if what she has been saying is true then we have to ask ourselves if we going to continue to allow people freedom of religious expression or if that is something that parents can decide for their grown children.

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