The Red Sea extends from the Mediterranean and Egypt’s Suez Canal southward past nine nations until it meets the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. Conflicts often occur along this vital route. Today, three warring factions in Yemen are backed by three different supporters: Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey.

“Red Sea Security” will be the topic of the Great Decisions Free Community Discussion Series on U.S. Foreign Policy on Friday, Feb. 28. Leading the discussion will be R. Blake Michael, the Swan-Collins-Allen Professor of World Religion at Ohio Wesleyan University.

The U.S. has a strong military presence. However, Djibouti, at the bottom of the Red Sea, has granted naval bases to a remarkable list of countries: the U.S., France (with personnel also from Germany and Spain), Italy, Japan (India uses this base too; both wish to monitor Chinese military activity), and, since 2017, China (Russia uses China’s facility but was denied its own base).

The U.S. is not heavily engaged in political and economic activities. China appears on the path to becoming the region’s largest economic partner.

Professor Michael has taught at Ohio Wesleyan University since 1978. He previously served as chair of the Department of Religion and as associate dean of Academic Affairs at Ohio Wesleyan. He also has taught occasionally at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio.

Michael holds degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (A.B.) and from Harvard University (M.Div., A.M., and Ph.D.) His research focuses on the South Indian Virashaiva movement on which he has published a monograph and numerous articles. He is an ordained member in full connection in the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church.

He tells us that he and wife, Molly, delight in their family — daughter, son-in-law, and two grandchildren. His hobbies include classic British sports cars — especially an MG‑TD — and community service through Kiwanis, a long-time sponsor of Great Decisions.

Great Decisions meetings begin at noon in the Fellowship Hall of the William Street United Methodist Church, 28 W. William St., Delaware. Attendees are welcome to bring a brown-bag lunch. Coffee and tea are provided.

For more information, visit

A booklet compiled by the Foreign Policy Association, with articles about this year’s eight topics, is available for purchase. The Delaware County District Library’s main location in Delaware and the Orange branch make the booklet available to Delaware county readers. The library has created a bibliography of important books on current international affairs. This bibliography is available at the sessions and can also be found at

Audience participants can complete a survey, prepared by the Foreign Policy Association, to add their opinions to thousands of others across the nation. Survey results will be provided to Washington decision-makers.

The topic for the Friday, March 6 discussion is “Labor Trafficking: Global Problem/Local Impact” featuring Carol O’Brien, chief counsel for Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, and Christy Utley, major of operations, Marion County Sheriff’s Office.


Special to The Gazette

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