by Lucinda Borkett-Jones
A difficult legal battle followed as she tried to stay away from her family and argue her case. At the time there was significant media speculation about whether her sense of peril was justified, and whether it was possible that 'honour killing' could happen in America.
Now 22, Rifqa has written her side of the story in her autobiography, Hiding in the Light: Why I risked everything to leave Islam and follow Jesus – a remarkable, gripping story and a challenging testimony from someone whose faith has not come cheap.
It's no understatement to say she's had an eventful life. Rifqa was born in Sri Lanka, grew up in a strict Muslim home and moved with her family to the US in 2000. As a child she was blinded in one eye in an accident, was sexually abused by a relative in Sri Lanka and beaten by her father and brother. She then experienced a radical conversion to Christ at the age of 12 and kept her faith hidden for four years. At 16, her parents found out and she ran away to Florida claiming that her father had threatened to kill her, which he later denied as well as the accusation of abuse.
Rifqa made her escape with the help of Christians she had connected with on Facebook. Although she had found what she was looking for spiritually, the difficulties didn't end after leaving home. She ended up in juvenile detention for a brief period and was then bounced between numerous foster homes. And before she had even graduated from high school she was diagnosed with a rare form of uterine cancer and was told it was terminal.
She turned 18 before the legal case was completely resolved, essentially giving her the freedom to move on – even more so after doctors said she appeared to have been miraculously healed from cancer. Having taken a couple of years out after high school and worked as a youth worker in a church, she is now studying philosophy and politics at college and hopes to be a lawyer one day.
She spoke to Christian Today about the way that Christ has changed her life and how her faith has sustained her in the most desperate times...