While still in Uganda, I realized that Ryan's ears had been pierced at one time. I asked the girls about it and they said it was so that the bad people wouldn't take him. That was as much as they could tell me. I thought that perhaps it was to look like a girl so that the LRA wouldn't try to kidnap him to be a child soldier. But he was too young for that, the LRA hadn't been active in Uganda for years, and when they were in Uganda it was primarily in the North and, to the best of our knowledge, our kids had always lived in Southern Uganda.
After getting home to the States I tried asking the kids again but didn't get any more information. So I posted on one of my support group sites for families that have adopted from Uganda. The person who replied was our friend Sara that accompanied me to the hospital in Uganda when our Sarah was so sick. She ended up spending a year in Uganda in order to bring her babies home. She told me that it had to do with witchcraft.
I started googling it.
Ears pierced. Witchcraft. Uganda.
The sites popped up. Words bolded.
Human sacrifice. Abduction. Child sacrifice.
I read as fast as I could. Skipping from one page to another. Eyes wide. Mouth open.
I couldn't breathe. I struggled to not throw up.
Children are often kidnapped. Their genitalia, tongue, or head cut off and used in witchcraft rituals. Or the child is buried alive under a construction site to bring luck and fortune to the new shop owners. It is estimated that every year 3,000 children disappear from their homes in connection to witchcraft.
There are other witchcraft practices like removing a babies eye teeth (canine teeth) before they grow in. This would involve a parent taking a child to a witchdoctor where they would use sometimes unsterile knives or bicycle spokes to dig the teeth out of the gums; A practice which can damage future adult teeth, leave gums mangled, and even cause death due to the unsterile and dangerous conditions. We know that our kids' Grandmother, who had been raising them, was a Christian. Our kids' gums show no evidence of this. Obviously we are thankful for this in multiple ways.
A person is considered to be impure for human sacrifice if they are circumcised or their ears are pierced. So Ryan's ears were pierced to make him impure to witch doctors and therefore protect him from being kidnapped. Our kids asked us within the first week of meeting them in Uganda if there were kidnappers in America. Of course we didn't understand what they really meant by this. Actually, it does not seem that our kids know about the horrible things that a kidnapper might do to them. But it is very clear that it was beaten into their heads to be afraid of kidnappers and to not let strangers lead you astray.
This fear is ingrained in them so deep. I know that their Grandmother did not give them these fears to be mean. She did it to save their lives. They had to be on guard. They had to be careful. The fear is still with them. A couple of months ago the deadbolt broke on our back door. Sarah instantly started trembling. She was terrified. She just stood there trembling from head to toe. When our kids were first home, they wouldn't go alone into any room at any time for any reason; they HAD to have someone with them at all times. Ryan had been potty trained before we ever met him. He has never once had an accident during the day. But up until just a month ago, he wore pull ups at night. He would wake up if he had to pee. But he was SO very afraid of the dark. He could not bring himself to get out of bed in the dark. It just wouldn't happen. We are so very proud of him for overcoming this fear. But I suspect that it will linger, at least to some degree, for a long time. He has to actively fight his fears. All of our kids have flashlights under their pillows. I only wish we had known to give them flashlights in the very beginning. We had no idea that our kids were sitting in their beds trembling with fear every night; their whole bodies rigid with fear.
How evil does a person have to be to cut the genitalia off of a child or to throw them down in a pit and fill in the dirt over their little bodies? Maybe the children are drugged and not conscious; I sure hope so. But the image I have is of screaming terrified children. Screaming or not, THAT is PURE evil! And that scar is physically on my son's ears to this date.
Link to a BBC article on witchcraft in Uganda.