Christian mother of two Jessey Eagan is making headlines with her announcement that she's using the 40 days of lent as an opportunity to "idetify with the other" by wearing a hijab and blogging about her experiences, #40daysofhijab, on her website, where she's sharing some of the reactions she's received from both Muslims and Christians around her community in Peoria, Illinois, and beyond.
The inspiration that led Eagan to wear the hijab for 40 days can be read in Part 1 of The Christian Post's interview in which she explains why she decided to wear the scarf headcoverings traditionally worn by women in some Muslim sects and what impact this gesture is having on the people she meets.
In Part 2 of CP's interview with Eagan (below), she talks about how she and her husband strive to connect with Muslims in their community, adding that her primary goal behind #40daysofhijab isn't to convert Muslims to Christianity or evangelize to them but to spark dialogue and understanding among people of all faiths.
CP: Do you see your wearing of hijab during lent as a way of bridging the gap between Muslims and Christians, or is it just a gesture of kindness?
Jessey Eagan: It can be both. My husband and I see a lot that we can do to build bridges between Muslims and Christians just by informing, especially Christians, on the basics of Islam with real stories about Muslims. I think that a lot of bridges can be built because we do have a lot in common.
Obviously, we have a lot of differences as well. I think that our similarities can bridge us into relationships and conversations with both sides.
I find it very important to just talk to someone if I know that they're Muslim and I don't even know them, like in the grocery store, because it's just a welcoming gesture and it can build a lot of bridges. For instance, my husband, once he was in Colorado riding a train and there were two Arab men across from him. He noticed a man who was sitting near them and he heard them talking Arabic and that man kind of looked like he felt uncomfortable so he moved away.
So my husband, Jeff, took the opportunity to stand next to the guys and he asked them in Arabic, he said, "Do you speak Arabic?" They were kind of shocked. They were both from Saudi Arabia and one had been there six months, the other nine months, and Jeff was the first American to talk to them. Just to think about how people's lives can be changed just by a hello.
CP: Are you wanting to have discussions with Muslims about faith and tell them more about what you believe?
Jessey Eagan: That's not specifically my point, but I think that it can organically happen through what I'm doing. I think that Jesus can reach people across religious [boundaries]. It's really easy to talk about faith with Muslims because it's their whole life. It's a very easy thing to do, but I wouldn't say it's my goal. I think that Jesus can reach people however he wants to.
CP: What's the message that you want to send out to other Christians by what you're doing?
Jessey Eagan: [What I'm doing] has gotten way more publicity than I thought it would. And I'm not the best writer, so it's been a challenge for me [to blog about it] every day. To Christians, I want them to remember that Jesus put an emphasis on love, and I feel like love is the opposite of fear. And I want people to remember that real human beings, real caring and loving human beings, are in the Muslim faith. Just to remember that people are individuals — to love people when you see them. And to not get caught up being swayed by the media. I think love is the most important thing that Jesus talked about.