Today I had an awful experience.
In Uganda, it is culturally acceptable to beat your kids. I’m not talking about a spanking on the butt, I’m talking about things that would give you jail time in America. I’ve seen people beat their kids with sticks, shoes, and water bottles. I’ve seen adults slap, kick, and verbally abuse other people’s children. To get over it, I have just had to tell myself that it’s part of the culture, and try not to let it bother me. I even thought myself to be used to it, or desensitized to this aspect of Ugandan culture. I no longer blink whenever I see a mother take off her shoe and chase her child around with it.
Today was different.
My 11-year-old neighbor, Roger, was accused of stealing a small piece of candy from a shop across the street. When his dad found out, he took him behind their house, which is 20 feet from mine, and beat him.
I had seen the commotion outside of the shop, and knew that something serious was happening. Seeing his dad walk from the shop and disappear behind the mud house with something in his hand, I knew what was to follow. When I first heard the sound of the metal pipe hitting Roger, followed by his blood curdling screams, I became a frozen statue of panic on my porch. Something happened inside of me and I became extremely angry and incredibly sad at the same time. My muscles tensed up and I could feel moisture appearing in my eyes. Hearing this happen, not 30 feet from where I was standing, and being powerless to stop it, was horrifying. Should I say something? Should I try to stop it? No. That would only make things worse, especially coming from an outsider. I wanted so badly to intervene and to get Roger out of reach. With strength that only comes from God, I stepped into my house, where I forced myself to stay, fists clenched, until it was over. I found myself counting the strokes that were being dealt to Roger. I stopped counting in the teens. Never before in my life have I heard a child scream like this. I found myself flinching with each hit I heard. With silent tears of heartbreak coming down my face, all I could do was stand inside with my back against the door listening to the soundtrack of his screams, and ask for God to put his healing arms around him.
No child deserves this.