Breaking the Cycle of Hatred: From ‘An Eye for an Eye’ to a World Without War


In the annals of human history, the horrors of war have always been most agonizing when visited upon innocent souls. These are individuals who find themselves tragically ensnared in the crossfire, experiencing unimaginable suffering, loss, and devastation. In these moments, it becomes painfully evident that the consequences of war extend far beyond the battlefield, impacting countless civilians, particularly the most vulnerable among us: children, women, and the elderly.

The present-day wars that continue to ravage our world often trace their roots back to centuries-old hatred and a cycle of quid pro quo retaliations. As we ponder these grim realities, it is worthwhile to reflect on the ancient legacy of Hammurabi, the sixth king of Babylon, who reigned from 1792 to 1750 BC. His groundbreaking creation of a system of laws to govern his empire, defining crimes and punishments, included the now-famous principle, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” This principle, often cited in the context of justice, has served as the foundation for centuries of justifying retaliation and nurturing the enduring hatred that ignites and perpetuates conflicts and wars.

While Hammurabi’s Code represents one of the earliest attempts to codify legal norms and establish societal order, history has undeniably demonstrated that the simplistic notion of direct retaliation often fans the flames of blood feuds, violence, and the perpetuation of hatred. This primitive form of justice has failed to address the underlying causes of conflicts and, tragically, has disregarded the suffering of innocent individuals who become trapped in the crossfire.

The cycle of hatred and vengeance has, regrettably, been a recurrent theme throughout human history. Wars and conflicts have frequently been driven by deeply rooted grudges and the insatiable desire for retribution. These historical grievances, passed down through generations, have continued to fuel the never-ending cycle of violence, whether it be in conflicts rooted in territorial disputes, ethnic or religious tensions, or political power struggles.

Today, in our modern era, there is a growing recognition that retribution alone cannot pave the path to lasting peace and justice. The horrors of war, particularly when inflicted upon innocent civilians, have compelled the international community to embrace more holistic approaches to conflict resolution.

The Evolving Landscape of Conflict Resolution

Global efforts have been dedicated to addressing the root causes of conflicts, promoting diplomacy, and safeguarding the rights of non-combatants. International organizations, working tirelessly to mediate conflicts, provide humanitarian aid, and advocate for peace, play a pivotal role in this endeavor. It is through the collective efforts of individuals, communities, and nations that we can dare to envision a world where the shackles of hatred are broken, and the specter of war is relegated to a painful memory, not a recurring reality.

As believers in the possibility of negotiated peace, it is incumbent upon us to support these efforts with unwavering determination, even to the end of our days. Our shared mission is to create a world defined by tolerance, respect, and unity, as we collectively strive to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. To do so, we must commit ourselves to the arduous task of eliminating “hate” and, in so doing, ultimately bringing an end to the horrors of “war.”

Understanding the Roots of Hatred and Conflict

 To truly appreciate the gravity of the issue at hand, we must delve deeper into the multifaceted roots of hatred and the reasons why conflicts persist. Hatred often stems from a variety of interconnected sources;(1) A Deep-Seated Resentment; One of the most enduring sources of hatred and conflict is historical grievances. These are grievances passed down through generations, often rooted in events that occurred centuries ago. Historical injustices related to territorial disputes, invasions, colonization, and other acts of aggression have left scars that continue to fester and fuel ongoing conflicts. When these grievances remain unaddressed, they become a powerful force driving the cycle of revenge, where each side seeks to redress perceived historical injustices; (2) Fear of the ‘other’ (The Power of Prejudice); Fear of the ‘other’ is another significant contributor to hatred and conflict. This fear often finds its basis in differences in ethnicity, religion, culture, or nationality. It frequently leads to the formation of stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination. When people fear and mistrust those they perceive as different, it becomes easier to dehumanize them and justify acts of violence. Overcoming this fear is paramount in breaking the cycle of hatred. Promoting understanding and tolerance among diverse groups is essential to dismantling the prejudices that perpetuate conflict; (3) Political Power Struggles; Political power struggles are often at the heart of many conflicts. Competing factions or leaders vie for control, and these power struggles can lead to violence and instability. In some cases, external actors may also become involved, further complicating the situation. Resolving political power struggles through peaceful means, such as negotiations and elections, is essential for preventing the escalation of conflicts. Recognizing the legitimate grievances of different groups and finding inclusive ways to share power can go a long way in mitigating the destructive impact of political struggles on societies.

By addressing these interconnected roots of hatred and conflict, we can take a comprehensive approach to conflict prevention and resolution. It is essential to understand that these factors are often interwoven, creating a complex web of tensions and conflicts. To break the cycle of hatred and move towards a world without war, we must acknowledge the historical grievances, combat the fear of the ‘other’, and seek peaceful solutions to political power struggles.

The Long Road to a World Without War

Breaking the cycle of hatred and achieving a world without war is an ambitious and long-term goal. It requires the collective efforts of individuals, communities, and nations. It demands a commitment to addressing the root causes of conflicts, promoting diplomacy, and safeguarding the rights of non-combatants.

While it may seem daunting, history has shown that progress is possible. The end of the Cold War and the peaceful transition of numerous countries from authoritarian rule to democracy demonstrate that conflicts can be resolved and violence can be replaced with peaceful alternatives.

As we look to the future, we must remember that the path to a world without war is not linear, and setbacks are inevitable. However, with determination and a shared commitment to peace, we can overcome the cycle of hatred and violence that has plagued humanity for centuries.

The Role of International Diplomacy and Mediation

International diplomacy and mediation have played a crucial role in resolving conflicts and preventing the outbreak of war. These diplomatic efforts often involve negotiations between conflicting parties, facilitated by impartial third parties, such as the United Nations or regional organizations. Diplomacy aims to find common ground, address the underlying causes of conflicts, and reach agreements that can lead to lasting peace.

One notable example of successful diplomacy is the Dayton Agreement, which ended the Bosnian War in the 1990s. This agreement brought together the warring parties and international mediators to negotiate a peace deal, dividing Bosnia and Herzegovina into two entities and establishing a framework for governance. While the peace has been fragile at times, it has largely held, preventing a return to full-scale conflict.

Breaking the cycle of hatred and building a world without war requires a multifaceted approach. It involves addressing the root causes of conflict, promoting diplomacy, safeguarding human rights, and advocating for peace. It also requires a commitment to education, tolerance building, economic development, and, above all, the belief that a world without war is not an unattainable dream but a goal worth pursuing. The journey may be long and challenging, but it is a journey that must be undertaken for the sake of the countless innocent souls who suffer in the crossfire of conflict.

Claudia Syarifah
Claudia Syarifah
Claudia Syarifah, One of the Winner of Many Languages, One World 2015. Currently serving as a Lecturer of International Relations at Wahid Hasyim University in Semarang. Teaching International Humanitarian Law, International Politics, Negotiation and Conflict Resolutions, and Foreign Policy Analysis.