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Rifqa Bary Muslim Runaway: When Two Faiths Fail to Heal Family, Judge Tries Counseling

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(AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
COLUMBUS, Ohio (CBS/AP) After Islam and Christianity failed to help 17-year-old runaway Rifqa Bary and her family make peace, an Ohio judge is trying a rather American remedy - counseling.

Photo: Rifqa Bary.

Rifqa Bary came to national notice in mid-2009 when she fled her Muslim parents because she wanted to be Christian, then refused to return home because she said she feared her parents would kill her.

Investigators in Ohio and Florida don't believe she is in danger.

Her parents, Mohamed and Aysha Bary, have fought a long legal battle to win her back and claim Christian pastors who counseled the girl also turned her against them. Judge Elizabeth Gill ordered a child welfare agency to look into whether the pastors committed a crime.

Photo: Rifq Bary's parents, Mohamed and Aysha Bary, Aug. 13, 2009.

In short, it's a hot mess, but Judge Gill still believes reconciliation is possible.

"We're all going to take a deep breath; you're going to work with these counselors," she said, according to the Columbia Dispatch. "You're strong enough to achieve these goals."

Of course, there is still that religion problem to be worked out.

"She wants to practice the Christian religion and believes she would be in danger if she practiced that religion at home," said the teen's lawyer, Angela Lloyd, speaking of the possibility that Rifqa Bary would be sent back to her native Sri Lanka.

In August, Rifqa Bary will turn 18, at which point, since she's an illegal immigrant, she won't have legal status to stay in America.

The immigration status of the parents is unclear but they say they are fighting to stay here.

Ironically, Rifqa Bary may not like her parents' faith, but she may need them for their papers.