This week, we received the unfortunate news of Kayla Jean Meull’s death. It’s the fourth murder of a U.S. hostage by the hands of ISIS. The three others, journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and aid worker Peter Kassig, were beheaded by the group last year. There have, of course, been others– Jordanian military pilot, First Lt. Muath al-Kasasbeh and Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, among others.
For those who work in conflict zones, each of these casualties has been unnerving and Kayla Jean Muell’s shouldn’t be any different. But, to me, it feels different. For me, Kayla’s death is a wake-up call—a reminder of the increasing number of attacks on humanitarian workers, with 296 workers killed or kidnapped in 2013, compared to 94 in 2003. It’s a reminder that we cannot become immunized by the ever increasing twitter feed, live stream, You Tube showings of the horrific methods employed by the Islamic State on U.S. and other hostages.
Kayla Jean Muell spent a year and a half as a prisoner of the Islamic State and died at the early age of 26. According to statements made by Mueller’s family, she had been working with Support to Life and Danish Relief Council, two aid organizations working on the Turkey-Syrian border with Syrian refugees and felt this was her calling.
There will be others like Kayla Jean Muell. With attacks against aid workers in fragile states, where such violence is predominately driven by civil conflict (Afghanistan, Syria, South Sudan, Somalia, Pakistan, among others), there will certainly be others. The statistics assure us that. But for today, we remember Kayla Jean Muell as a person, not a statistic, and her will—as told by her parents—to make a difference.