Cypriot education officials were scrambling to respond to criticism this week over complaints that a high school student reportedly got scared by her teacher’s references to the “work of Satan” during class.
According to local media, education ministry officials were investigating a case of alleged proselytism at a state high school in Cyprus, days after a parent went public with accusations that his daughter started to fear Satan after listening to her teacher in a religious studies course.
“Since early December, our daughter who is in tenth grade started to show signs of anxiety, not sleeping normally and not eating properly like any other kid her age,” the student’s father told local media.
Reports said the troubled teen was acting out of character by avoiding interactions with her friends and peers while also neglecting her homework, until one day she confided in her dad that she was praying and fasting in order to defeat Satan.
Instructions were given to schools to leave out passages that had any references to Satan
According to Philenews, the girl told her father that she had learned about Satan “from her theology teacher who gave a lecture on Satan” while teaching religious studies to her students.
Media reported that the teen’s family sought the help of a mental health counselor to address a number of “uncontrollable and multidimensional” phobias that were affecting their daughter over the issue.
They also blamed teachers, school principals and superintendents, as well as education ministry directors for deciding “to teach these topics regarding evil spirits and Satan,” Philenews reported.
The passage in question, according to local media, made references to dark forces and called on people to oppose and defeat Satan.
“Apart from bright angels, there are also dark and evil spirits. Their leader is Satan. Satan, according to the holy scriptures, is a killer from the very beginning. The work of the devil is to trap us in sin. We can defeat the devil not by ignoring him but by educating ourselves about the tricks he uses,” the passage said.
Officials say "isolated incident"
According to daily Politis, officials said the case was an isolated incident and all measures were being taken to support the student. It was also reported that instructions were given to schools to leave out passages that had any references to Satan.
But media reports suggested this was not the first time that parents had complained about theology teachers in state schools.
In one case, a female theology teacher in Nicosia reportedly called on her teenage students to keep their clothes on while taking a shower because “angels were watching” while in another case the teacher would remain in her vehicle when not teaching class in order to “avoid having to resist temptations.”
The parents of the troubled teen say “these unnecessary and dangerous school subjects blatantly undermine the healthy development and wellbeing of children.”