References to God in School Textbooks Cause Controversy

The Ministry of Cults and Religions on Wednesday agreed with the teachers’ union that the word “God” should be taken out of official 12th-grade textbooks because it seems to favor Christ­ianity over Buddhism.

“‘To put the interests of God above all others’ is not from the Buddhist book,” said Dok Narin, undersecretary of state for the ministry. “And it will make a lot of students confused about that word.”

The book violates the Cambo­dian Constitution, which designates Buddhism as the state religion, Dok Narin said. “The word ‘god’ in Buddhism is not the same as ‘God’ in Christianity,” he said. “I will ask the ministry to correct this word by putting in the word ‘Buddhism’ or taking the word out of the book.”

But Koeu Nay Leang, who re­viewed the textbook as director of the Ministry of Education’s Directorate of General Education, said the word does not violate the Constitution, and the education ministry has no plans to modify the book.

“There is nothing wrong with this word, ‘God,’ because it is a general word in use for all gods, whether in Buddhism or Christ­ianity,” he said.

The Social Science textbook was written by the ministry and funded in part by UN agencies. The first chapter, on Human Char­acter, advises students to “Put the interests of God above all others.” The word used in the text is “preah chea macha,” or “god who is the boss.” The Khmer word for Buddha is “preah but.”

“Even all the teachers who teach from this book are confused by this word,” said Rong Chhun, president of the Camb­odian Tea­chers Indepen­dent Asso­ciation, which complained to the government earlier this month.

In April Prime Minister Hun Sen recalled all copies of the new 12th-grade history textbook after complaints by Funcin­pec that the books mentioned the 1998 CPP election victory but didn’t mention that Funcinpec got a majority of votes in the 1993 election.


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