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Treaty of Kadesh: Oldest Peace Treaty; between Egypt and the Hittites

The Kadesh Treaty: A bronze replica of this peace treaty can be seen in the United Nations Building, N.Y.

In this remembrance month I want to draw our attention to the oldest surviving peace treaty from antiquity:

“More than three thousand years ago, Ramses II, the Egyptian pharaoh, and the Emperor Hattusilis III concluded one of the oldest peace treaties in the history of the world. The peace treaty ended the Egyptian Hittite war that lasted more than 80 years. The two ancient superpowers finally ended the war with the treaty in 1276 BC. While the treaty was not the first in the history of the world, it is the oldest known that was concluded between two independent states with equal power and status. A bronze replica of the treaty can be seen in the United Nations building in New York, reflecting the milestone document. It is considered one of the prime examples in diplomatic history.”

Then, like now: the battle in Syria:

Kadesh Treaty

Kadesh Treaty

Though today’s conflict in Syria looks like mutually assured destruction, “the Egyptian-Hittite Treaty ended the long war between the two empires. In the center of the war was the land that both the Egyptians and the Hittites wanted to rule: the land of modern day Syria. For more than two centuries, the empires fought for supremacy over Syria. However, the conflict culminated with the Egyptian invasion on Syria in 1274 BC.”  (Source: documentarytube.com).

To see the Hittite and the Egyptian versions side by side, see “The peace treaty between Ramses II and Hattusili III.”


From Ancient to Contemporary: Colombia


Getty Images; bbc.com: Mr Santos (left) and Farc leader Timochenko (right) have agreed to end 54 years of armed conflict

Today we have reasons for hope, there is one less war on the planet,” Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos recently told the United Nations General Assembly.

Meanwhile the leader of the Farc rebel group, Rodrigo Londono, better known as Timochenko, apologized to the victims of Colombia’s armed conflict which ended with the September 26 signing of the peace deal:

I would like to ask for forgiveness for all the pain that we may have caused during this war,” said Timochenko.

The guests at the ceremony in Cartagena cheered when Timochenko apologised.

Some shouted “Yes, we can!” while Farc members and heads of state from Latin America rose to their feet on the stage and applauded.

Unspeakable horrors, and pointless kidnappings & killings were the rebels’ response to unchecked capitalism and the deep sense of economic unfairness. No one comes out of this with clean hands, other than by cleaning them in forgiveness.

Not so Fast: for the want of .2%

It appears all that hopeful enthusiasm didn’t even last a week, as on Sunday October 2, Colombians narrowly rejected the peace agreement. In a popular vote 50.2% voted against the agreement and 49.8% in favour. The BBC reports:

Non-Colombians have been puzzled not only by why so many Colombians have rejected the peace deal between the government and the Farc guerrilla group but also by how few turned out to vote. At 37.4%, voter turnout was the lowest in 22 years.

But more immediate – and more difficult to answer – than the question of how the vote could have been “no” – is the question of “what next?”

Back to the drawing board

The good news, if there is any to take from this disastrous result, is that after Colombian voters narrowly rejected the deal, both Mr Santos and the Farc rebels said they were willing to continue negotiating to reach a peace agreement a majority of Colombians would accept.

The bad news is: for those who voted, clearly the nation is divided; and one wonders about the apathy that prevented the majority from voting on this historic peace deal in the first place.

AFP: Pen used to sign agreement made from bullet.

AFP: Pen used to sign agreement made from bullet.

The Cost of Forgiveness

There is ironic symbolism in signing this peace agreement with a pen made from a bullet. It is rather in keeping with Isaiah’s prophetic word of “beating swords into ploughshares, and spears into pruning hooks.”

What did it take to execute what Lyse Doucet calls “an extraordinary peace process“? What will it take now – what more will it cost? What revenge must be given up? What retaliation must be left incomplete?

(Doucet draws out lessons learned from the IRA and South Africa in “The lessons of Colombia’s extraordinary peace process” – well worth a good read.)

The Bridge of Forgiveness

He who cannot forgive another breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself.”

George Herbert

It should cause us pause; it should elicit in us a deep rumble of celebration & awe when people can come to peace after so much war. Whenever peace comes, we find that forgiveness is an unnatural and outrageous act of generosity. It always costs the one who forgives more than they thought reasonable.

Forgiveness is costly at any level. “It breaks the cycle of blame and loosens the stranglehold of guilt,” writes Philip Yancey. “It accomplishes these two things through a remarkable linkage, placing the forgiver on the same side as the party who did the wrong. Through it we realize we are not as different from the wrongdoer as we would like to think.”

This, my dear reader, is more enigma…


According to the BBC, as of November 13, the Colombian government and the Farc rebel group announced a new peace agreement, six weeks after the original deal was rejected in a popular vote.

The two sides, which have been holding talks in Cuba for four years, said the revised plan incorporated proposals from the opposition and others groups.

The initial deal had been deemed to be too favourable to the left-wing rebels.
The new agreement is not expected to be put to another popular vote, but rather submitted to Congress.