UPA (Utanian Press Agency)
Release: April 13, 301 AP.

Millions flock to church in Utania

On the holiest date in the Utani Cruistian Calendar, millions of Utani and non-Utani have filled the hundreds of thousands of churches and temples across the country for Easter.

Utania's national census showed that there was a mere few hundred thousand mostly non-Utani who professed "no religious affiliation", while the overwhelming majority called themselves "Cruistian". They demonstrated this by attending overflowing church services across the country, in the first Easter celebration since independence for the country.

In Kanhara, Archbishop Arond Kopej of the Kanharan people lead a Mass in Kanhara Cathedral, before a capacity crowd of six thousand, including the Kanharan King and his sons. In Ujam, the great Ujam cathedral was closed to the public, but opened to worshippers for the first Easter in centuries, with Archbishop Frederik Beyans calling it "a momentous occasion".

Emperor Areopatre attended a traditional Savaj Cruistian Spiritual (mystics) Church service in Navoomi with his family and entire royal court. The six hour worship service was largely devoid of formal structure, following the mystic tradition in Savaj culture, but certainly a serious and solemn occasion.

By far the largest crowd was in the Waverley open air Cathedral, on the steps of Utani Krysa-Araseté (the "Hall of the People") where independence celebrations focused. The crowd is estimated to have been 850,000 people crowding on the foreshore as Archbishop Nuegn Kopeya gave a sermon on the "miracle of redemption", an exposition on the role of the sacrifice of Our Lord Cruis in the historical context of the purifying sacrifices that had been performed before His time. Present were the President and his family, and several parliamentarians with nearby constituencies. Though the service ran from 9:30am for about three hours, filled with dance, drama, soaring music and a 160-voice choir, few were displeased. "I rate it as one of the best experiences of my life" declared one parishioner. The service was an amalgamation of nineteen inner-city churches, including the enormous B'yantusu Gospel Assembly, though clearly attracted several hundred thousand others.

All business has been suspended by government decree, with only a select few exceptions. Hospitals and other essential services are permitted, but no newspapers are printed or sold (indeed, this release has been prepared by a foreign employee of the UPA), no shopping is available and the gears of industry are suspended. While there has been some criticism of the draconian nature of the ban, few politicians are prepared to say so - it would indicate their being significantly out of step with the majority of their constituents.

In previous years, the Utani provinces were forced by Tsarist decree to keep stores opened on Good Friday, to service the Guwimithian consumers, and prevent "Cruistianisation" of the Tsar-worshipping empire. Governor Hope welcomed the change as "a true reflection of the new, independent character of the Utanian nation". However, federal opposition leader Thomas Kemp stated a feeling that the "ban might be too extreme", citing the cost of keeping industry "spinning its wheels but not producing". He provided the example of the Benmore aluminium smelter that was forced to shutdown production event though it took many megawatt-hours to restart the smelters. (A statement from the plant suggested that the smelting pots were, in fact, "kept hot".) He also suggested the quadrupling of pay rates on Easter Friday and Sunday were "excessive".

Only one major politician used the occasion for politics: recently re-elected Governor Cryer of Nystonia warned the President's about kow-towing to the wishes of the "godless communists" in Armatirion when he visits later this month. Most other politicians refused to speak to any reporters.

Regardless, the independent state of Utania has stamped its mark on the Easter celebration, with a renewed religious fervour.

©UPA, 301 AP.

©Mike Ham, 2001. All rights reserved. No reproduction without, at least, tacit approval. ;-)