Understanding Rifqa Bary

Michael Kruse has written an excellent article in the St. Petersburg Times entitled “The Life Rifqa Bary Ran Away From” that explains how Bary saw her conversion to Christianity as part of “an epic battle between God and the Devil, in which she was both a prize and a prophet.”

The whole thing is excellent, but I want to highlight this one section because it gets at the heart of the Right’s claims that Bary had to hide her Christian faith from her parents and flee from their house because they would literally kill her if they ever found out:

Rifqa was forced to live a secret life of sorts, she has said — to friends, in court files, to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement — praying and reading her Bible in the middle of the night in her room or the bathroom or the porch on the back of her family’s apartment.

Her parents say they knew.

At school, meanwhile, she did nothing to hide her faith.

“She’d read her Bible in class,” said Tony Hou, a junior at New Albany. “She brought her Bible with her just about everywhere.”

It became, he said, one of the things she was known for — her blue Bible, her name written on the front, in shiny silver letters.

Last fall, she listened to an online sermon given by Jamal Jivanjee, an evangelical pastor in Columbus who also was a Muslim who became a Christian. She e-mailed him. They started meeting for coffee at Starbucks.

And at some point she started reading the Facebook writings of an Ohio State student and an aspiring pastor named Brian Michael Williams.

In Williams’ writings, evolution is bunk, abortion is murder, Armageddon is near. He said he needed “an army of prayer warriors” for the end of days.

Rifqa grew to consider Williams a friend and a mentor. She started last spring proselytizing students at school. Her father scolded her for it, he said, because it was against school rules.

At home, when Rilvan had friends over, she started coming out of her room and telling them about the Bible, saying they were listening to “demonic” music.

“She was really aggressive about it,” said David Sharpe, who last year graduated with Rilvan.

Last spring was when Rifqa also started exchanging Facebook messages with Beverly Lorenz. She and her husband, Blake Lorenz, are the pastors at Orlando’s Global Revolution Church, an evangelical, end-times group that says it’s “about changing our culture.”

Brian Williams baptized Rifqa in June, in Big Walnut Creek at Hoover Dam park, not far from her parents’ apartment. She cried and laughed and kept falling over so Williams had to hold her up.

“After she was submerged in the water,” said Hou, her New Albany classmate, “she pretty much fainted, she pretty much passed out, literally, from joy.”

Rifqa wrote in her journal.

“I am called to the nations,” she said. “Send me to the deepest darkest places into the pagan land.”

“Lord is preparing me.”

“Enemy is after me.”