Location unveils Hidden Words

28 June 2004

MELBOURNE, Australia — Location, location, location. Those are called the three most important guidelines in real estate -- and taking notice of them has helped boost visitor numbers at a Baha'i bookstore here in Australia's second biggest city.

The number of customers, browsers, and window shoppers has increased since the bookshop -- "Hidden Words: Baha'i Books and Information" -- moved recently from a small shopping arcade to a nearby prominent location on a main road.

Its new spot is near a busy intersection close to both the Hawthorn Town Hall and one of Melbourne's major universities, and in a restaurant precinct.

Many motorists stopped at red traffic lights spend their waiting time looking into the shop window.

"At least one third of the customers and browsers are not Baha'is, and many come to the shop from other suburbs," says spokeswoman Emilia Tabrizi.

"It has a growing name among Baha'is as a good source of quality books and resources. Our reputation has spread by word of mouth and as a result we even have some interstate customers who order books from us."

The shop is an information center, Ms. Tabrizi says, that lets the public satisfy its growing curiosity about a faith that bases its work for world unity on Baha'u'llah's teaching of the principle of the oneness of humanity.

Customers have had many positive things to say about the shop, she says, including comments that it is "inspirational," "soothing," and "informative."

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Members of a study circle, who meet at the bookstore, with their workbooks.

The number of participants from the general public has also increased at the study circles hosted by the shop. At least half the membership of a new study circle, for instance, comes from outside the Baha'i community.

The study circles -- an activity now offered by the Baha'i communities in more than 180 countries and territories worldwide -- aim at developing individual capacities in a range of activities, such as reawakening one's spiritual life, teaching values to children, and expressing one's views to others.

Another popular event is 30-minute "tranquility zones" offered on Sunday mornings. They provide music, meditation, and spiritual upliftment through readings and prayers.

Facilitators change for the tranquility zones, giving a different flavor from time to time.

Although Baha'is do not force their beliefs on others, they are keen to offer the teachings of Baha'u'llah to anyone interested in inquiring -- and now the shop has an increased number of those. To satisfy this demand, information evenings are held every fortnight on Friday evenings and they feature a speaker on the Baha'i Faith and a question-and-answer session.

Some 25 local Baha'i volunteers are involved in the operation of the shop, which is open eight hours a day from Monday to Friday and six hours on Saturday.

A newsletter updates customers of forthcoming activities.

The shop, overseen by the Regional Baha'i Council, takes its name from "The Hidden Words" by Baha'u'llah. That volume comprises 150 brief inspirational counsels and admonitions for spiritual life and growth.