Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Where Masonry stands in Iraq and Afghanistan

There is both good news, and bad news about Masonry in Iraq and Afghanistan. (I have been working in South-west Asia for six years). The bad news, is that after all these years, there is not one working F&AM lodge, chartered by any mainstream Grand Lodge, anywhere in South-West Asia. Not one.

There are a number of working Prince Hall lodges, operating on the various military bases in Iraq/Afghanistan. Most of these are chartered by MW Prince Hall Grand Lodges of Oklahoma and Texas. Victory Base Complex (Baghdad), has four working lodges, and two Eastern Star chapters, all Prince Hall affiliated.

The Grand Lodge of New York F&AM, holds the charter for Land, Sea, and Air Lodge #1 (UD). This lodge was first chartered in 1917 (World War I). The lodge was de-activated, and then brought back for WW2, Korea, Vietnam, and its most recent activation was Sep-Oct-Nov 2005. (Send me a PM, and I will send you the link). I volunteered to assist in the administration and activation of LSA#1, in November 2005. I had the traveling charter with me, at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq. In December 2005, the Grand Lodge of New York, directed me to return the charter to New York, so that it could be displayed in a museum in New York City. I was promised, that a new traveling charter would be issued, next year (2006). I never received a new charter.

If a military or civilian Mason, serving in this part of the world, wishes to participate in Freemasonry, the only route is through Prince Hall Masonry. If a man holds membership in a Grand Lodge, which does not recognize Prince Hall Masonry, he risks suspension or expulsion. If a man holds membership in more than one Grand Lodge, and all of his memberships are not in communication with Prince Hall Masonry, he risks suspension or expulsion.

There are a number of informal Masonic assemblies here in SWA. I started a “Masonic Square and Compasses Club”, at Al Asad. It was not a working lodge, just a bi-weekly meeting, where we would drink a soda, and fellowship.

The Grand Lodge of Nebraska F&AM, developed a program, to enable Masonry to be practiced in Iraq/Afghanistan. They produced a “Lodge in a box”, which included all of the working tools necessary for Craft Masonry, including a charter. They called these portable lodges “Swisher Kits”, named after the first Nebraska Freemason to be killed in Iraq. The program never got off the ground, because several Grand Lodges made it known, that they would not accept degree work, from any of these temporary lodges.

It has been a real disappointment to me, that I have been working in Iraq/Afghanistan since 2004, and I have never been able to attend a lodge meeting. I am also disappointed, that not one Grand Lodge in the USA, has shown any initiative to issue a traveling charter, for a military lodge in this part of the world.

“The opposite of love, is not hate. The opposite of love, is indifference"- Elie Wiesel. Nobel Prize winner, and holocaust survivor

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