It is the season of holidays and beheadings.
The death of an American aid worker, Peter Kassig, at the hands of the Islamic State terrorists was accompanied by the killing of a dozen Syrian soldiers, captives of fighting in what was once called quaintly the Levant.
In Jerusalem, the sanctity of a synagogue was violated by two extremist Palestinian youth, who killed four rabbis before being killed themselves; one Israeli, an Arab Druze policeman, later died from the attack.
The catalog moves along to central Asia, when four people were killed when a suicide car bomb detonated at a perimeter wall of a camp housing foreign contractors in Kabul. Both militants and two Afghan guards were killed.
Part of the spirit of this kind of holiday season is the rattling of windows across the central diplomatic district of Kabul, as Reuters reported after the car-bomb attack. Those who might otherwise see diplomacy as full of niceties were reminded of the hostilities nearby.
We in America should not hold any particular pride in our stability. A young man lost his life in his attack on the Florida State University library in Tallahassee. Closer to home, an intruder at Centenary College in Shreveport was shot and killed after firing on campus officers.
As we’ve seen from west coast to east coast, Oklahoma City to Boston, there are home-grown lunatics and immigrant lunatics inspired by extremism and nihilist fantasies, but there are also just plain lunatics, with easy access to guns they turn on others and themselves.
Lest this holiday travelogue seem to be weighted too heavily with “non-state actors,” as the State Department would categorize them, move on to Ukraine. There, the cause of murders and beatings is a pure state actor: Russia.
Nearly 1,000 people have been killed in eastern Ukraine since a Sept. 5 cease-fire came into force — yes, since the cease-fire. That is according to the Nov. 18 report of the United Nations commissioner on human rights, documenting a breakdown in the rule of law and the flooding of the region with hooligans whose day jobs are in the Russian army.
“The continuing presence of a large amount of sophisticated weaponry, as well as foreign fighters that include servicemen from the Russian Federation, directly affects the human rights situation in the east of Ukraine,” the U.N. report noted.
One of the features of the holiday season is the prayer of the pope for peace in the world. In that, he will speak for the victims of the violence, Christians, Jews or Orthodox, Islamic or Buddhist. In every part of the world, one can wonder if the author of the universe intended people to be targets of evil on the scale we are experiencing across the globe this year.
Pray hard, your holiness, because the world is not listening hard enough this year.