For one Baptist woman in Kansas City, wearing a hijab is a profound — and visible — expression of support for Muslims.
Martha DeVries has taken the concept of walking a mile in another person’s shoes to a whole new level.
All the recent hostility around the nation aimed at Muslims, refugees and immigrants inspired her to wear the hijab on Mondays beginning in December and continuing through this May.
“I’ve just gotten very tired of hearing so many negative things, like Donald Trump’s ‘let’s not let Muslim immigrants into the United States’ and the scare on Syrian refugees,” says DeVries, a North Kansas City, Mo., high school guidance counselor and the wife of a Baptist youth minister.
Rather than just be mad about it, instead DeVries decided to do something that would help her identify with those women who are experiencing so much scorn in the United States.
After the first month, DeVries says she had experienced no negative repercussions as a result of her experiment.
But that wasn’t the case for a Wheaton College professor who also decided to wear a hijab during Advent, Christianity Today reported in December.
Larycia Alaine Hawkins was suspended by the evangelical college not for wearing the garment but because she posted on Facebook that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.
DeVries, however, has not been concerned about professional or social implications relating to her wearing of the hijab. And she is by far not alone in wearing the hijab in her school or community.
“I live in a pretty interesting community,” she says of North Kansas City. “We have a lot of immigrants living close to the high school where I work” and when the weather’s nice the local park “looks like the United Nations.”
North Kansas City High School, where she works in the international baccalaureate program, is equally diverse. About 15 percent is made up of Arabs, she says.
DeVries’ hijab is a way to glimpse life in the United States from their perspective.
Her faith has a lot to do with the experiment, as well.
One inspiration was a recent sermon at her church, Chandler Baptist in Liberty, Mo., that challenged Christians to push themselves beyond the limits of everyday, easy faith.
“I felt moved out of my comfort zone,” DeVries says.
Scripture has also been a motivator, especially Christ’s demand that his people love their neighbors.
“I think of Muslims in my community as my neighbors and it’s not my job to judge them or determine their salvation. My job is to love them.”
By wearing the hijab, DeVries says she hopes others will get the same message.
“Someone needs to be communicating with Muslims that there are Christians in this nation who love them.”
The word certainly got out the first day DeVries wore the hijab.
“On that Monday I went to school with my head covered, and all I did all day was answer questions from people I know,” she says.
One or two asked if she was covering up a bad-hair day. But most simply asked why.
“I said I’m trying to walk in someone else’s shoes. And I said I’m tired of people saying
persecutory things about Muslims.”
That DeVries chose to wear the hijab seems to have surprised no one close to her.
“It fits with her character,” says Tamara Everly, a longtime friend and currently minister of music and children at Chandler Baptist Church.
It also fits with her job as a counselor at a multi-cultural school.
“She has always had a heart for the underprivileged and the working poor,” Everly says.
DeVries’ husband, Mike, verified that passion. His wife earned a doctorate in education leadership from the University of Missouri. Her dissertation explored getting college scholarships and admissions for undocumented immigrants.
Mike DeVries added that he had no concerns about the hijab experiment when it was presented to him.
“The first thing I thought was, hmm, is she really going to do that?” he says. “I thought it was kind of cool, actually.”
There are students from 60 nations at North Kansas City High School.
“We have encountered a lot of Muslim students and the ones we have encountered have been sweet, good kids,” he says.
DeVries consulted with several Muslim women about the appropriateness of her
wearing the hijab. Her husband says they all supported her “act of solidarity.”
And it was more than that, he adds.
“My wife blows me away with her compassion. She is one of the most caring people I have ever met, so it didn’t surprise me at all that she wanted to do something like this.”
This article was first published in the January/February 2016 issue of Herald, BNG’s magazine sent five times a year to donors to the Annual Fund. Bulk copies are also mailed to BNG’s Church Champion congregations.