I just learned about the murder of John Granville , a 33 year old USAID official gunned down in Sudan on January 1. His family is from Angola, NY, my own home town.

Although we have never met, this sad news occupies a place in my heart, not only because we have ties to the same place or knew the same people, but because our love of Africa and our determination to make a difference has deemed us somewhat kindred spirits.

John is an inspiration, having chosen throughout his life and with personal risk to himself, to make the world a better place by working to empower East Africans. According to an interview on Buffalo’s WKBW,

“He was one of them. He may have stood out because he looked different, but he was one of them. There was no two ways about it.” said Karen Erickson, a friend of the Granville family. John Granville had a heart for Africa. The pictures only tell part of his story. He spent years there in the Peace Corps educating Africans about H.I.V. He helped to build a school, and handed out radios to Kenyans in an effort to spread democracy. His most recent work was for the U.S. Agency for International Development. “He was very big in working on a census for 2008 and then, once they got the census, then move to getting up a political election in 2009 and give their people an opportunity in 2009.” said Erickson.

John has lived the life I had always dreamed of living. As Karen said, “I think, for John, life was a mission and the mission was to find peace over there to help these people.”

As to why this happened, New York Times journalist Jeffrey Gettlement speculates in his January 2nd article “U.S. Diplomat and Driver Are Shot Dead in Sudan:”

The attack came just hours after President Bush signed a bill… aimed at Sudan’s oil and defense industries… part of the broader campaign to put pressure on the Sudanese government to end the bloodshed in Darfur, a troubled region in western Sudan where more than 200,000 people have died.

One could say “stop the madness” and walk away, and many do, but John’s choice was to always strive toward something better. It is only when we?break that forward momentum that all hope is lost.