The Baha'i Faith is a relatively new religion. It was founded by Bahá'u'lláh, a self-proclaimed prophet, at the end of the 19th century. The current governing body of the Baha'i faith is in Haifa, Israel. Less than six million people around the world practice Baha'i, with the largest concentrations of followers in India (2.2 million) and Iran (350,000).
The fundamental belief of the Baha'i teachings is unity throughout the world, which includes harmony of religions, society, and humankind itself. Baha'is believe in a single, almighty God, who has many manifestations resulting in the many established religions in the world. Although every religions has a different concept of God, the Baha'i faith sustains this has mainly to do with cultural differences. For the Baha'is, God is one, and all the world's major religions are a single faith.
The Baha'i faith concentrates on social and ethical issues, such as gender equality, the elimination of all forms of prejudice, the need for universal compulsory education, and the elimination of extremes of wealth and poverty. The mystical teachings of the Baha'i faith are based on acquiring useful virtues and developing spiritually, which in turn help the progress of civilization. While textual study and prayer are part of the Baha'i faith, performing useful work in everyday life is considered a higher form of worship.
According to Baha'i teachings, begging and asceticism are prohibited. Gambling, drinking, and gossip should also be avoided. While the Baha'i faith teaches that sexual expression is only acceptable within the marriage of a man and a woman, openly homosexual people are not prevented from entering the religion. As a general rule, Baha'is do not become involved in the private lives of other members, and privacy is highly respected. While there is no appointed clergy in the Baha'i faith, practicants elect their own nine-person Spiritual Assemblies to run the affairs of the faith at local and national levels. Baha'is are persecuted in Islamist ruled countries, especially Iran, which prompted the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to issue a statement expressing concern about the safety of members of the Baha'i faith worldwide.