A student is reportedly fasting and praying to ward off the devil, after a religious education lesson put the fear of God into her.
The girl’s father, quoted by daily Phileleftheros, has complained that she has been traumatised by a religious instruction lesson at school.
The ministry of education is under pressure to investigate the case. “We are aware of the incident and it is being looked at,” an official at the ministry told the Cyprus Mail on Thursday.
Press reports said the girl was receiving help. It was also claimed that school inspectors had ordered that the offending religious passage was not taught.
The passage said: “As well as the angels of light, there are also dark and evil spirits. Their leader is Satan. As the Bible states, he is from the beginning a slayer of man. The work of the devil is to trap us in sin. We can beat the Devil not by ignoring him, but by knowing his tricks.”
Phileleftheros quoted her parents as saying that “since early December our daughter, a student at A’ Lykeiou (age 15-16) hasn’t been herself.”
Her parents said, at first, she refused to talk to them, and was locking herself in her room, not doing her homework and refusing to see her friends – behaviour which was completely uncharacteristic.
Questions have long been raised about the dogmatic way in which religion is taught at public schools. The Archbishop has a big say over who is appointed education minister.
In January 2018 the Cyprus Humanists expressed their discontent over proposed education ministry teaching materials that the group said targeted and discriminated against atheists.
The group said in a statement that on the education ministry’s website, on the proposed teaching materials section, there was a PowerPoint presentation on ‘the phenomenon of atheism’.
“In short, this presentation states that the causes of atheism are the arrogance of modern scientists, superficial knowledge, and that it is the highest form of ingratitude, that God can use pain for pedagogical purposes, that the atheist makes the wrong choices, is self-absorbed and behaves without any moral constraints,” the group said.
However, a Eurobarometer poll in 2010 found that only 3 per cent of Cypriots were atheist, agreeing with the view, “I don’t believe there is any sort of spirit, God or life force.” On the other hand, 88 per cent responded with “I believe there is a God.”
Conservatives point to such data to argue that there was societal demand for traditional religious education. Others have complained that the current religious teachings in schools did not reflect the increasingly diverse mix of students.
A large number of foreign students from different backgrounds and faiths are now attending public schools.