Jesuit Father Michael Linden, superior of the Jesuits in Jordan, has a challenging job. Living at the Jesuit Center in Jordan, he is responsible for exploring ways for the “restoration” of the Society of Jesus in Iraq.
The Jesuits arrived in Bagdad in 1932 to establish and run Baghdad College, which was staffed entirely by the New England Province Jesuits. In 1959, the Jesuits founded a second school there, Al Hikma University.
However, Fr. Linden explains that “American Jesuits were given short notice to leave, in two separate waves, in 1968 and 1969. Both schools eventually were wrapped into the state system of schools, and the U.S. Jesuits and the few Iraqi Jesuits filtered to other parts of the Near East or repatriated to the U.S.”
Fr. Linden says that many in Iraq remember the schools fondly and favorably. “There are good and supportive persons, Christians and Muslims, secularists and devout, who express hope and welcome to the Jesuits,” he says.
If the Jesuits return to Iraq, Fr. Linden says it’s hard to predict the nature of the Jesuit presence. “Some would like the U.S. Jesuits to parachute with a full Jesuit staff and system from the 1950’s back to Baghdad College. Some believe this is possible!”
According to Fr. Linden, Jesuits in Amman have learned that faith formation and service to migrant workers is important, as is close collaboration on the pastoral goals of the local bishops. “This can probably be replicated in Iraq,” he says.
Fr. Linden also believes Iraq has vocation potential. “Iraqi Christians are a giving people, and there will be Jesuit vocations from Iraq. These Iraqi Jesuits will eventually make the major discernment about their identity and work; perhaps it will include schools, perhaps not.”
Read the full interview with Fr. Linden in the April 2013 issue of JIVAN: News and Views of Jesuits in India and learn more at the New England Province Jesuits website. In the video below, Fr. Linden explains the ministries of the Jesuits in Jordan as well as their elation at the recent election of a Jesuit to the papacy.