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Pedestrian signal boxes' religious message upsets non-believers

Pedestrian signal boxes' religious message upsets non-believers

Published: 22 Aug 2008 12:42 GMT+02:00
Updated: 22 Aug 2008 12:42 GMT+02:00

Designer Kenneth Österlin has issued a written statement categorically denying that his design for Prisma Teknik AB, the Swedish company behind the pedestrian signals, is in any way a religious symbol.

"To make the conclusion that the finger is pointing to God is pretty far-fetched. It is pointing that way in order to direct people as to where to push the button".

Designer Österlin isn't the only person seeing red after reading about the signal boxes' alleged religious message.

On Monday an official complaint was filed with the justice ombudsman, claiming that if media reports were true, then official bodies have broken the law by allowing religious symbols on the pedestrian signal boxes, Svenska Dagbladet reports.

Anyone living in Sweden or the Nordic countries will almost certainly have seen the image of a hand pointing upwards to encourage pedestrians to press the button before crossing the road.

Prisma Teknik AB, the Swedish company behind the pedestrian signals, openly admitted last week that the hand was meant as a hidden symbol for God. In fact, the company says it has never made any secret of the fact.

"We want to show that there is only one way to reach God and that is up and through Jesus", CEO Jan Lund told The Local.

Though Sweden is not particularly religious, with church attendances consistently low, the country still contains some pockets of religious fervour. One of these appears to be located at Prisma Teknik, a company that supplies pedestrian signals and other technical devices to 60 markets around the world.

Prisma Teknik AB is a family-run business based in the southern Swedish county of Småland, an area with a reputation as Sweden's bible belt.

CEO Jan Lund told The Local that the company's signals point the way to God in 17 countries including Ireland, Austria, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Finland, Belgium, Israel, and the US among others.

Prisma Teknik's hand points upwards, much in the way that many religious icons or pictures of Jesus have done through the ages. Lund told The Local that this was entirely intentional.

However, Prisma Teknik's hand of God does not go down quite so well with its Muslim clients in the Arab world, who are much more aware of the hidden Christian message than your average Swede.

Even so, the Swedish Christian company still supplies pedestrian signal signs to customers in Saudi Arabia, who promptly cover up the hand when it arrives in the Arab state.

The Local asked Jan Lund why his company does not simply manufacture a special pedestrian signal without the iconic index finger for the Arab market.

"We want to be a servant of God and we have been blessed as a company for 21 years, so we won't change for anyone", he said.

On its website, Prisma Teknik AB openly declares its thanks to God:

"We are grateful for all the good customers and suppliers we have. It is also thanks to the care from God that we have developed to be the successful company we are today. We want to have Jesus as a part in everything we do. Christian values and God's guidance is the foundation of Prisma Teknik."

And perhaps it is wise not to change a winning formula. All the pedestrian signals are manufactured in Sweden and the 13-strong company's turnover for 2007 was more than 25.5 million kronor ($4 million).

Claudia Rodas (news@thelocal.se)

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