Fathima Rifqa Bary: Rifqa's personal writings indicate she wants to be a prophet

Ohio runaway Rifqa Bary wants to spread the gospel to 'pagans,' according to her writings that her father shared with Sentinel

Orlando Sentinel/September 17, 2009

A Muslim girl who gave her heart to Jesus and then ran away to Christian evangelists in Orlando is not just any Christian. She is driven to save souls and prays that God will make her a prophet.

That's according to writings she left behind when she fled.

"Lord is preparing me and He has me hidden ... until the time is right," Fathima Rifqa Bary wrote in a computer entry obtained by the Orlando Sentinel. "I am called to the nations. Send me to the deepest darkest places into the pagan land."

Rifqa, 17, lives with a foster family in the Orlando area. She fled here, she insists, because her father threatened to kill her for abandoning Islam.

There's no evidence of that, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and child-welfare officials in Columbus, but her claim and her wrenching, tearful YouTube video have prompted a firestorm of response. Thousands of people have weighed in, most insisting that if Florida officials send her back to Ohio, she'll face certain death.

After Rifqa disappeared July 19, family members searched for clues about why she left. They found a computer flash drive and were stunned by what they read.

Contents of the flash drive were given by her father, Mohamed Bary, to the Council on American-Islamic Relations of Columbus, which shared parts of it with the Sentinel. Bary authorized publication.

Facebook preaching

The writings reveal a young woman who has embraced fundamentalist Christianity, who has stood outside an abortion clinic, duct tape across her mouth, alongside other protesters, and who has dreamed about Armageddon.

She must convert her family to Christianity, she wrote, including her older brother, Rilvan, 18, who worships "demonic music." She must approach strangers and talk about Jesus. She saved a list of tips on how to do that:

"Do NOT be sneaky," she wrote. "Sit down ... get to know them ... [Ask] would you mind for 5min if I share the gospel with you."

She compared herself to the Old Testament heroine Esther and wrote out or saved religious pep talks.

"What does it take to be a prophet?" she wrote. "If I am a friend of God I can be prophetic. ... You have to want it. Everyday pray for prophesy."

Also on the flash drive are 250 pages of Facebook preaching and blogging by a young Columbus evangelist, Brian Michael Williams, 23, a former Ohio State University sociology student and Rifqa's religious mentor, according to Bary.

Those are the writings Bary said troubled him most.

Williams prays with people by "laying my hands on the [computer] monitor and prophesying," Williams wrote. He calls Planned Parenthood's founder a racist Nazi, does not believe in evolution, speaks in tongues and criticizes mainstream Christians as following a "demonic doctrine" for being spiritually lethargic and failing to evangelize.

Williams baptized Rifqa in a creek near her home in June, he said, and helped her run away - unwittingly, he insists - by driving her to the Greyhound bus station in downtown Columbus.

To Rifqa's father, Williams is a Christian extremist who turned Rifqa against her family and put lies in her head.

'An inspiration to me'

Williams said that's not true. Rifqa, he said, is the one who convinced him that because her father was a Muslim, Bary must kill her to preserve the family's honor.

"I really appreciate Rifqa's courage, and she's been an inspiration to me," Williams said in a phone interview.

Rifqa's attorney, John Stemberger, and her guardian ad litem, Krista Bartholomew, were prohibited from commenting on the writings because of a gag order issued by Orange Circuit Judge Daniel Dawson.

In the past week, Rifqa's parents have launched a new strategy to get their daughter returned to Ohio and placed in its foster-care system. There are now two juvenile-court cases pending in Columbus. Last week, her father filed one, asking a judge to declare his daughter incorrigible for repeatedly being disobedient.

Someone else on Monday filed a separate petition naming Rifqa, something that could give a Franklin County judge the authority to determine where and with whom she lives. The Franklin County, Ohio, Clerk of Courts Office would not identify the petitioner.

Amy L. Edwards of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report. Rene Stutzman can be reached at 407-650-6394 or rstutzman

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