This year, the Interfaith Thanksgiving Service, held annually by the Mecklenburg Metropolitan Interfaith Network (MeckMIN), was canceled following concerns around a peaceful protest at the site of the service.  The protest had been organized to encourage discussion of the Israel-Hamas war and its impact on the Palestinian people. 

Considering that the service's theme this year was radical inclusion, the goal of which should be to support and foster dialogue surrounding religious issues, some might be disheartened that MeckMIN didn't take the opportunity to embrace this dialogue. However, I am also concerned about the broader impact the cancellation might have on nonprofits like Loaves and Fishes and the Crisis Assistance Ministries.

As a junior at North Mecklenburg High School, I've seen the impacts of these organizations up close as I've recently co-organized a school-wide food drive with Loaves and Fishes/Friendship Trays. These organizations do incredible work to create greater access to food for those in need and one of the important fundraising events for them is the Interfaith Thanksgiving Service, especially when, as the CEO of Loaves and Fishes said in a recent Observer article, "need is at an all-time high".

By canceling the service, it could be perceived that MeckMIN has forgone discourse about meaningful issues of religious importance, at the expense of those it seeks to serve. Radical inclusion - inclusion of ideas, inclusion of exchange, inclusion of people affected - seems sidelined, especially in the face of a protest that its organizers have called peaceful. 

The cancellation might give the impression that this protest was deemed an inherent disturbance to peace. If so, this determination resulted in negative real-world impacts on people in need (like those who depend on the nonprofits mentioned) and on interfaith issues in the future.

It's also reflective of larger social problems. When we refuse to engage in conversation about issues that make us uncomfortable, we lock down the marketplace of ideas which in turn hurts our collective ability to create sanctuaries of community like MeckMIN intends. Whether it's families in need of food or the hundreds who attend the service every year, its cancellation gives Charlotteans a lot less to be thankful for this year. 🆅

The opinions expressed within this piece are solely the author's and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of North Mecklenburg High School or the Viking Voice.