Thursday, October 29, 2009

Please pray for Rifqa

Dear friends,

I've often put up updates about Rifqa Bary at W4, usually with closed comments, because I refuse to deal with Muslim commentators on this issue. This time, W4 seems to be rolling along fine, and I've decided to update here, because I'm reluctant to cover up a new post by a fellow contributor with a comments-closed post of my own. I may yet change my mind on that, though.

Rifqa is in a very serious situation. She has been returned to Ohio, and the Ohio judge has already indicated a tendency to side with her Muslim parents. The judge has summarily ordered, without any investigation of the case (immediately upon Rifqa's return) that she is to be held in foster care without any Internet or cell phone use. This apparently means she is cut off from (literal, physical) contact with the Body of Christ, unless her foster family is Christian, which we have no reason to believe. Her Christian lawyer, whom she chose herself, has evidently been removed from the case, and new lawyers unfamiliar with the case selected arbitrarily for her by the state of Ohio. I have been unable to find out if she is being allowed any visits by a Christian pastor or being allowed to go to church. I would guess not. Even convicted murderers are allowed clergy visits in prison and some degree of free exercise of religion, but this girl has been convicted of nothing and has done nothing but run away from her parents in fear.

Her trial--yes, it is her trial, because the proceedings are quasi-criminal, her parents having filed a case to have her declared an "incorrigible child" and returned to them--has been scheduled quite soon, for Nov. 16, which is scarcely time for her new lawyers to get up to speed, even supposing that they truly want to represent her best interests.

There is great danger that she will be summarily returned to her parents and that they will immediately take her out of the country. In Sri Lanka, they can do what they want to her to pressure her to return to Islam, and turning eighteen next summer will help her not one whit. The Florida judge allowed all this to happen, dropping a requirement he had previously stated that her parents produce their immigration documents. They stonewalled him. Word from a friend of Rifqa has it that her Florida guardian ad litem (who at least really did care for her) was bamboozled along with the judge by a phony "deal" whereby the immigration issue would be dropped and Rifqa returned to Ohio if her parents would promise to leave her alone in foster care in Ohio until she turns eighteen in nine months and is no longer under their control. This deal, however, was completely unenforceable and depended on the parents' good faith, which of course is nonexistent. They reneged on it immediately when the Florida judge (who seemed in general rather sensible and concerned for Rifqa's well-being) surrendered his jurisdiction and ordered her returned to Ohio.

This is all quite terrible. There is something horrible about watching the slow squeeze of legal proceedings against an innocent girl happening before one's very eyes, telling oneself, "This can't happen in America," and then finding that perhaps it can. Of course, I cannot help being reminded of the murder of Terri Schiavo.

Right now, I do not have time to post links here to back up all my points. I will try to do so later so that you can get information in case you want to write to Franklin County Children's Services in support of Rifqa. I may also post the text of the letters I have written thus far.

Meanwhile, please pray for Rifqa.

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