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Ismya Vilani
by Alvin Plummer

Essentially, this is a "Culture Clash" article, on Vilani converts to Ismya Christianity. It's an attempt to 'get into' the Vilani mind, and see what things would a Vilani find attractive about such an uncompromising religion, what things are rather distasteful, and what things are just plain weird and incomprehensible to the Vilani mind.

Of course, it goes without saying that the Vilani converting to Christianity are usually marginal members of the Vilani community, anyway's: 'converting' means change, the greatest possible perversion in most Vilani thought. On the other hand, those disgustingly innovative Terrans did win the Interstellar Wars, and did dominate the government of the Second and Third Imperia: maybe their spirituality was actually somehow more older, more in tune with The Way Things Should Be than Vilani faiths? Vilani thinking may change very slowly, but it does change....

Origins: Spread of the Faith

One of the more intertesting future developments is the spread of the Ismya Faith, as a seperate force from the Ogadzi race. For most of history, Ismya Christianity was an ethnic religion: offically it applied to all humans, but in reality the Ogadzi kept it to themselves.

However, with the rise of the Ogadzi Diaspora, this started to change. First, the Ogadzi - unwilling to hide in their enclaves forever - started to openly interact with the society surrounding them. Finding the local cultures abhorrent, they promptly started trying to change it, from establishing charities to sending out missionaries. Because of their unfortunate experiences with State power (both on Tyrannus and in the Diaspora), they placed a low priority on political lobbying or governmental subsidies & preferences: they instead worked to build an entire alternative society from the bottom up, with it's foundation in the supremacy of the Christian God, rather than membership in the Ogadzi race.

While many are willing to use the charitable services provided, only a few has actually converted to the Faith. However, the new Ismya outlook is already shaping Diaspora intellectual thought, and - as Ogadzi wealth is invested in wealth-generating projects, instead of non-productive things like guns and bombs and bunkers - are also growing in influence economically as well. Of course, economic power brings out jealousies, as well as political pull.

Ismya Christianity and the Vilani

"So you're saying that there is this invisible, all-powerful ruler - something like the Shadow-Emperors - who rules all the stars. He never changes, his law never changes, and he fixes the destiny of everyone before they are born. And he understands the occasional need for killing all of the enemy, and enslaving those who refuse to pay their financial debts.

Are you sure that this is a Solomani God?" - Ligu Shushakakhan, Vilani community leader, Erobi/Diaspora

The Vilani have never liked changing anything, but they've been known to make some alterations, if placed under immense pressure. In general, the Vilani prefer to obey the rituals and worship the ancestors as they have done for millennia, and never cared to change the basic beliefs. After all, religions and ideologies define the very essence of what a culture is, after all: to change that is to change everything.

The Vilani are generally turned off by Solomani religions & most of their ideologies: too moralistic, too unstable, too idealistic, too individualistic, too much of a radical change of what they have always done. They want something practical, something old beyond imagining, something with a rich heritage of ritual and ceremony.

The closest Solomani religion that fits the bill is Vilani Rite Imperial Catholicism. With a mix of Catholic and Vilani writings, rituals, and theologies, it's usually the only Solomani religion the Vilani are even willing to consider converting to.

The Vilani have never cared about whether something is right or wrong, just on if it's efficent or wasteful, traditional or innovative. What the Ismya missionaries insist is that doing what is right, in the long term, gives wealth and power to those who do it: slowly but surely in current history, and also in eternity as the Children of God rule for all time.

Moreover, doing what is right is traditional, following the laws God wrote first in the fabric of creation, then more clearly in the ancient writings of the Bible, especially Moses. All the traditions of men are mere corruptions and self-deceptions, compared to the First Traditions which, naturally, originate from Terra. The Ogadzi missionaries cheerefully point out that even the tiny tribe that gave us these traditions from God still endure as a sign, while much more powerful and dominant nations has faded into the dust.

The Vilani are quite comfortable with multi-generational planning, and admire the protections the Pentateuch gives to property. They are uncomfortable with "The same law shall apply to the native as to the stranger who sojurns among you" (Ex. 12:49), as the Vilani like to discriminate on the basis of culture: still, as the Law allows only believers to hold judicial, executive and legislative positions in government, it isn't too bad. And you don't get a more stable law code than the Moasic: the last revisions were done 5700 years ago, and it's heretical to modify what now exists. (The Vilani, of course, just adore stability.)

The Vilani are used to bureaucratic orders, to always ask permission before they do anything. With the Mosaic code, as long as you obey the known, unchanging law you can do whatever you want, including set up your own bureaucracy and organizations, to manage your own affairs. Such a possibility greatly appeals to all Vilani, especially the more aggressive and dominant Vilani in society.

The Ismya religion requires belief in a recent creation, something that the Vilani have no great problems with. Every Vilani has their favourite list of things that Those Disgusting Scientific Researchers Got Wrong, and it wouldn't surprise them in the least if they got the origin of the universe wrong, as well. As always, the Tradition come first - and if they are going to follow the Christian traditions, then they might as well follow the oldest Christian traditions there is.

The pro-Ismya Vilani are fairly comfortable in changing Vilani traditions: the things that they believe are fixed for all time is Divine traditions, also known as the Law. For example, they would say that...

"For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men..." Mark 7:8a

...illustrates the place of Divine Law as a better Universal Standard than the Vilani culture of the Ziru Sirka, a "supertradition" that can be enforced across all human cultures, like the old High Vilani Culture used to be, but better. Many Vilani recoil at this verse, and stop listening right then: others want to know why the commandments of an unknown God should supersede traditions that have served the Vilani well for thousands of years.

What disturbs the Vilani more are verses like Psalms 51:16-17,

"For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."

Most Vilani don't know what a "broken spirit" is, but don't like the sound of it at all. Others can't understand why a spiritual deity would reject sacrifices: aren't they following the rituals in the way tradition demands? The Vilani who most love/fear this God are busy devouring old writings to find out what the Christian ancients thought about this command: a few are even on Terra, looking for rare manuscripts that pre-date the Interstellar Wars for clues.

In any case, the first trickle of a flood of converts is just starting to arrive in 1120. By 1150 - assuming no great political disaster strikes - there will be more Vilani believers of Ismya Christianity than Ogadzi believers: this will have interesting consequences as the religion expands across the Sector.

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