The diversity of our existence is beautiful, but people today are still entangled in a predicament, one that has plagued mankind since the beginning of time. Yet, at a basic level, we are all of the same human species. We experience highs and lows in life and strive to be happy and fulfilled. Our common pains and joys are what bring us together, but our diversity makes us unique. It is what deems you or I our own special person, one who has never existed and will never exist again.
The human race is extraordinarily diverse in so many ways. Gender, ethnicity, race, class, religion, nationality, philosophy, lifestyle. The areas in which we differ are endless and that is exactly where the beauty resides. However the civil rights struggle is and has always been something extremely controversial in the United States. For us Freemasons, equality and freedom, according to our bylaws is a non-negotiable topic. It is intrinsically part who we are, it is our very essence! So why we try to avoid this so important topic?
Freemasons have historically fought against racism and inequality and traveled for "foreign countries" embracing every culture, every race and we still are the most diverse fraternity in the world with hundreds of thousands lodges spread all over. We are in every continent of the earth teaching our craft that we are all equals. Freemasons are well known for their tolerance, prudence and understanding. During a time when knowledge was considered a privilege of just a few "special and chosen" people, Masons fought and stand for the Enlightenment. So many people have died or have been deprived of basic rights because of a lack of understanding — an understanding that difference in appearance, belief, or way of life does not make one person better than another.
As we all know our system of Speculative Masonry developed from Operative Masonry (Stone Masons and Guild workers) which was completed when four lodges of London assembled in St. Paul Church yard in June 24, 1717 and organized the first Grand Lodge of England. Nevertheless, one should not mistake the date of 1717, as being the historical or symbolic origin of Masonry. We have been adopting symbolisms from many ancient and diverse cultures. It has been proven that black people in ancient Egypt had developed a sophisticated system of initiation called by historians as the Egyptian Mystery System that is partially adopted by our rites. (Reference: Fahim A. Knight article titled, “Freemasonry and Islam: What do They Share?”). It is also believed that Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and Pythagoras, the called “philosophical fathers of masonry” were educated in astronomy, music, geometry, arithmetic, logic, rhetoric and grammar in Egypt at the helm of African wise men. It is a hypocritical and contradictory for white Masons to deny black Masons their right to legitimacy and at the same time have borrowed their own Masonic rituals, philosophy and regalia from black Egyptian and Arabic culture. (Reference: George G.M. James, “Stolen Legacy”).
We have found that true masonry is an expression of justice, prudence, temperance, and fortitude and at the basis of these virtues lays friendship and brotherly love. We who believe in justice must challenge Masons in the United States to abolish any racist, segregationist and xenophobic views.
Understanding and accepting people from all walks of life is key to finding peace in our lives. But beyond that, it is of the utmost importance to making the world a place where all can live freely and without fear.
Let’s practice empathy, let’s not be quick to judge, and envision life in another’s shoes before we end up treating them unfairly. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said that it is impossible to love without knowing each other's pains. Let'’s live with compassion! Compassion refers to the love for and desire to help ALL people. Only through compassion we can find lasting joy. Compassion allows us to walk down the street and see only the faces of our brothers, of other humans living the same life as us.
Compassion allows us to realize our role in something much larger than ourselves. It allows us to forget our selfish desires and to strive to better the lives of the less fortunate. Truly caring for others fills us with purpose and peace.
I would like to suggest to you a pledge my brother:
“Every human being is an image bearer of The Great Architect of the Universe. Therefore, I joyfully extend my love to each and every person regardless of color, culture, ethnicity or religion. As a serious minded freemason I will use the influence entrusted to me to change any structure or system that perpetuates injustice. As a parent I pledge to raise my children and grandchildren with values that lead to a true celebration of diversity. Today I rededicate myself to a lifestyle of radical tolerance and all encompassing inclusion.”
RW. Bro. Luciano M. Azevedo
Assistant Grand Chancellor | Communication, Marketing and Branding | Leadership Committee Chairman