Back in the 80's, and even nowadays, kids are being kidnapped and their mothers are left suffering and hoping for a happy end. This song is about Bono's view and respect for the Mothers of these disappeared kids that are still in some dark room waiting to see their mom's face one more time in their life. In the lyrics, Bono sings our sons and daughters were cut down and taken from us, he is talking about the missing kids. In the trees our sons stand naked is about the vision that the mothers have when they just stare at some place to imagine their kids again.. a mother is staring at a tree and imagine her little baby, still naked. In the refrain We hear their heart beat shows that it does matter how far the kids are from their Mothers, they will always feel each other's soul. Bono show that he's a very sensitive person and a great singer.
Ricardo Lora anjorxaol.com (contributed before the 20:th of February 1998)
When U2 came to Argentina (Feb 4th 1998) they dedicated this song to Madres de Plaza de Mayo (Mothers of Plaza de Mayo). Bono said that Mothers Of Disappeared was first dedicated to Mother of El Salvador, but Madres de Plaza de Mayo were the original ones. He said that the argentinian ones were the mother of the ones from El Salvador. Madres de Plaza de Mayo started meeting during the militar dictature in Argentina (1974-1983). Military took a lot of young people and killed them. Madres de Plaza de Mayo complained about it when they knew that their sons were dead.
Abel Bourband bourbandsatlink.com ( 1:st of March 1998)
I agree with the interpretations of Mothers of the disappered, but what is important to note here is the way Bono uses dual meanings to his lyrics. In the line Night hangs like a prisoner, he is saying two things simultaneously: that night looms over or 'hangs' over the skies, and also that the night 'hangs' like one of the disappeared prisoners would be tortured and 'hung'. In the following line Stretched over, black and blue, again two references are seen: that the skies are stretched with a blanket of black and blue clouds, and also that the disappeared prisoner is beaten up and tortured and beatun up until he is 'black and blue'.
Faisal Nasir Khan faisalxhotmail.com (10:th of November 2000)
This song is one of the suite of death as The Edge has called them. The other two are Exit and One Tree Hill.
Jonas Steverud (Maintainer of U2MoL) (5:th of November 2004)
In Northern Ireland, people who were kidnapped and killed by the IRA, and whose bodies were never found, are often referred to as "The Disappeared". So the song may well be about kidnapped and missing children and a wider sense, but it seems to explicitly refer to the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
As others have written, the song may be about missing children in a general sense, the term "The Disappeared" is a very specific reference, one that U2 would hardly have made by coincidence, given the references to Northern Ireland in other songs like Sunday Bloody Sunday and Peace On Earth. Actually, just like Peace On Earth, where the names "Sean and Julia,/Gareth, Ann and Brida" are all names of victims of the bombing in Omagh, the song references Northern Ireland on one level, it doesn't change the more general significance of the song.
Luke Harris lukasborghotmail.com (25:th of June 2005)