Homicide can be criminal (murder and manslaughter) or non-criminal (executions authorized by civil or military authorities and killing by police authorities to prevent commission of a felony); but nonetheless the fact that humans kill one another is unacceptable by any definition. Realistically, while the circumstances can be comprehended for some of these deaths, (excusable homicides may occur by misadventure, and in some cases as self-defence), the millions of homicides annually occurring world-wide indicate the inadequate nature of the attempts at mitigation. The most common method is strangulation of women and stabbing of men, and the most vulnerable group to be murdered are babies under the age of one year.
Neglecting national variations in the basis of statistical estimates, figures from Interpol indicate that in 1990 there were approximately 136,000 murders reported from 91 countries worldwide, namely 4.5 per 100,000 population; some 82,000 (namely 60%) were claimed to have been resolved. The murder rate in South Africa was 32 per day.
In the UK, for example there were approximately 750 murders per year in 1992, as against 23,760 for the USA. In the UK, this constitutes 9 women per million population or 14 men per million. The murder rate has increased progressively since 1945, being less than 250 per year in the UK during the 1950s. One index of society's increasingly violent nature is the steady rise in the proportion of murders carried out by people unknown to the victim. In 1980 in the UK, about 20% of murders were by strangers increasing to approximately 30% in recent years (37% for men). Of those killed by people they knew, only 6% of men were killed by spouse or lover, compared 37% in the case of female victims. Men and women are equally likely to die at the hands of their children who are responsible for 14% of the victims. But 3% of men and 6% of women were murdered by a parent, with 68 babies under one year murdered per million.
In the USA in 1990 homicides increased by 8% over the previous year to an estimated 23,220, namely 2,000 than in the previous year, and up from 9,110 in 1960. It was estimated in 1993 that 90,000 Americans had been murdered in the previous four years. Labelled the "murder capital of America", Washington DC in 1993 had approximately one murder per day. In 1988 in the UK, 56% of killings took place during quarrels or bouts of temper.
Attempted murders in the Netherlands have increased sharply between 1980 and 1990: from 1,501 to 2,178, against an increase in population over the period of 14 million to nearly 16 million.
Like the first fratricide, every murder is a violation of the "spiritual" kinship uniting mankind in one great family,11 in which all share the same fundamental good: equal personal dignity. Not infrequently the kinship "of flesh and blood" is also violated; for example when threats to life arise within the relationship between parents and children, such as happens in abortion or when, in the wider context of family or kinship, euthanasia is encouraged or practised. (Papal Encyclical, Evangelium Vitae, 25 March 1995).