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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moslems, Orthodox Find Common Foe

Some may see the Kosovo conflict as a conflict between Orthodox Christians and Moslems, but high-ranking representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church and Iran's Islamic government showed a common front Monday.

They said the two traditional religious systems have much in common, including a common enemy: Western liberal secular society, which they said aims to impose itself upon the rest of the world, as it is in Yugoslavia.

Aya Mohammed Ali Taskhiri, the president of Iran's Culture and Islamic Relations Organization, and Metro-politan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, who handles the Moscow Patriarchate's external relations, exuded satisfaction and embraced each other after a four-day session.

The session, titled "Peace and Justice," was part of a theological dialogue they started last year and plan to continue into the next century.

The religious leaders assured reporters that they were not uniting against anyone and spoke in nonaggressive terms, but their message was clear: Conservatives representing different traditions often can better find a common language with each other than with liberals. And they are determined to protect their traditions against what they see as an onslaught from the West.

Ayatollah Taskhiri, one of Iran's leading figures, said that development of relations between Russia and Iran could help resolve conflicts in Tajikistan, Afghanistan and the Caucasus and determine the status of the Caspian Sea. Chechnya, he said, is Russia's "internal matter" but Iran would be ready to help if it is asked to.

"This dialogue helps us understand that there is no fatal confrontation between Orthodox Christianity and Islam and no predetermined conflict between the two great religions," Metropolitan Kirill said. "Moral and spiritual values professed by the Orthodox are essentially very close to the moral and spiritual values that are professed today by Islam."

These values have to be "harmonized and coordinated" for the benefit of humankind, although he said such a statement could be seen as "shocking" by some faithful.

A joint statement released by the delegations made some strong conservative declarations. Vices "have to be condemned and suppressed by the peoples and, consequently, by the states," it said.

The religious leaders said they respect the "personal convictions" and "ideas" of any individual, but they spoke out strongly against proselytizing by Western churches and new religious movements.

"I respect the thoughts of every person," Taskhiri said. "I am against imposing ideas and civilizations." Values of Orthodoxy and Islam have to be "strongly protected," he said.

"Unfortunately, we currently are observing a cultural immoral aggression on the part of the United States and similar countries, and this cultural aggression has to be repelled," he added.

Both religious leaders condemned U.S.-led NATO for its aggression against Yugoslavia, which they see as a violation of an international order.

Unusual attention was focused on American political scientist Samuel Huntington's theory - spelled out in his influential book "The Clash of Civilizations" - that the 21st century will be the century in which Western civilization confronts other civilizations, namely Moslem and Orthodox.

Metropolitan Kirill said that he and his Iranian guests have serious doubts whether a model based on Western liberal values can be imposed on the entire world.

There could be something "useful" in it, he said, but its imposition as an "obligatory" system could "destroy local cultures and traditions" and thus destroy "God's world, which is beautiful in its diversity."