There may be no Jedi in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story but that doesn’t mean the Force doesn’t have a role to play. Darth Vader of course, has a key part as the returning iconic Imperial villain in the first standalone Star Wars Anthology spinoff, and as we learned during the Rogue One panel at Star Wars Celebration Europe yesterday, faith is central to the plot as well.

The livestream of the Rogue One panel at Celebration 2016 has been removed by Disney but during the presentation, several photos were shared highlighting the new planet known as Jedha – a spiritual location described as the “Mecca” of the Star Wars galaxy. It is here we meet several of the main characters of Rogue One and it is here where believers reside who have Faith in the Force and the historical lessons of the Jedi.

During the course of Rogue One, protagonists Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) find themselves on a mission to Jedha and glimpses of these can be seen in the teaser trailer and new sizzle reel footage revealed yesterday. At the conclusion of day one of Star Wars Celebration Europe 2016, we spent time with director Gareth Edwards to talk about his unique take on the Star Wars universe and why a spiritual place like Jedha is a natural and logical fit for the universe.

“It came from the fact that the era that our film is set in doesn’t have any Jedi. So the idea of having a Star Wars film that doesn’t talk about the Force—if you look at what George was great at is although he got a story about one thing, he’s implying a million other things in the background and ideas that are much wider, and obviously our film is using that and telling a story within it. But for me it’s like if A New Hope is kind of the story of Jesus, there must be a whole religion beyond that, and so it felt like for a thousand generations the Jedi were kind of the leaders of the spiritual belief system.

So it’s like there’s gotta be like a Mecca or Jerusalem but within the Star Wars world. It felt very contemporary to have a situation where the Empire were imposing themselves on what means a lot to the spiritual side of Star Wars for their own reasons, their own goals, and within that area there’s a resistance that’s building, and they’re trying to fight back. Our characters end up having to go to Jedha and they basically end up getting pulled into their story a bit.”

Star Wars Celebration Europe 2016 Wen Jiang and Donnie Yen at Rogue One Panel Jedha: The Star Wars Galaxys Spiritual Planet Explained

Wen Jiang and Donnie Yen play characters from Jedha

Wen Jiang and Donnie Yen play Baze Malbus and Chirrut Îmwe, respectively, and as we learned on panel yesterday, the latter – the “blind master” is a devout believer in the Force and what it represents – perhaps explaining how he’s such an effective combatant without sight and only using a staff.

Edwards continues, talking about just how much lore that can continue to be expanded upon, and that only so much can fit into a single film:

“As a fan, I wanted to go to these places. It’s gotta feel right, that’s what was a massive learning experience. There’s such a fine line in Star Wars, if you go just slightly to the left it’s not Star Wars, it’s another sci-fi movie that doesn’t feel right. And if you go slightly to the right, you’re just copying what George did. So trying to navigate this thing where it’s new but feels fresh was like the dance that was the process of making the film.

I really loved Jedha. The frustrating thing about it was that it looked so good and there was so much, I was dying because it can’t all fit in the film, it can’t all fit in the story, the film’s not about that but it’s an embarrassment of riches when you’re doing something like this. You just desperately want everything to be in everything all the time, and then you go back and look at the originals and you go, ‘Wait a minute, that guy I had the toy of that I used to play with all the time, he’s only in one shot.’ We were talking about droids and things at one point and it’s one of the weirdest things in the world when you’re getting paid to do a job and part of that job is, ‘Let’s all go and watch Empire Strikes Back.’ Someone gets out on their laptop and goes, ‘Quick quick, let me hit this scene’ and everyone’s trying to beat each other to it and then you get to this bit and you go, ‘Hang on, he’s only in one shot? I was obsessed with that toy as a kid.’ That’s the beauty of it is that the hope is there’s so much detail in this world—this film’s born out of that, like ‘What would that story be?’ It’s not a main event but it could be another film and that’s what exciting about Star Wars and I think that’s what, obviously, our film’s been born through. It never ends really, I think Disney are very smart.”

What we learned at Celebration about Jedha and its inhabitants obviously hints at interesting potential connections to the Lor San Tekka (Max Von Sydow) character from Star Wars: The Force Awakens who was part of the Church of the Force – and underground faith movement of sorts who believe the return of the Jedi Order is coming and that it’s required for there to be balance in the Force. From the official Star Wars Databank:

A legendary traveler and explorer, Lor San Tekka is a longtime ally of the New Republic and the Resistance. After the Battle of Endor, San Tekka helped Luke Skywalker recover secret Jedi lore that the Empire had tried to erase, and Leia Organa hopes the old scout can now help find her brother.

Of course, Episode VII takes place nearly four decades later so we’re curious how much of Jedha is shown in its Rogue One introduction and whether other media and films will further explore the location. Share your thoughts and theories in the comments!

More: How Much Darth Vader is There in Star Wars: Rogue One?

Following the foundation of the Galactic Empire, a wayward band of Rebel fighters comes together to carry out a desperate mission: to steal the plans for the Death Star before it can be used to enforce the Emperor’s rule.

The cast includes Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed, and Forest Whitaker. “Rogue One” is directed by Gareth Edwards, produced by Kathleen Kennedy, Allison Shearmur, and Simon Emanuel, executive produced by John Knoll and Jason McGatlin, and co-produced by John Swartz and Kiri Hart.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens in December 16, 2016, followed by Star Wars: Episode VIII on December 15, 2017, the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25, 2018, Star Wars: Episode IX in 2019, and the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.

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