NI mother bringing lessons of our peace process to Colombia

Rosamund Bennett pictured with children at an informal school in a Muslim camp in Myanmar
Rosamund Bennett pictured with children at an informal school in a Muslim camp in Myanmar

A mother of three from Northern Ireland has been asked to share the story of our peace process with Colombians so that they can learn from it as they try to rebuild after bloody conflict.

Rosamund Bennett, originally from Banbridge but now living in Islandmagee, departed for Bogota last night in her role as CEO of Christian Aid Ireland.

Peace building is a dangerous role in the South American country with human rights campaigners being killed with alarming regularity despite the government and the FARC signing a historic agreement last June.

Rosamund said major issues resulting from the conflict in Colombia involved people being displaced from their land and robbed of their human rights and basic services as well as gender discrimination and sexual abuse.

The 48-year-old added: “Human rights defenders are regularly killed in Colombia. In January alone this year there were 27 killed. It’s important for us to provide support to the people who are carrying out this work.”

She continued: “When I asked them if there was anything they want me to bring over they said can you bring us some good books about the peace process.

“I went to a bookshop and the sad thing is they said we have as many books as you want on the Troubles, but there’s not quite so much about the peace process.

“Everybody’s peace situation is very complex but there’s a genuine interest from the people in Colombia to understand what happened after the peace process here and what are the issues that we’re still facing.”

Rosamund has been CEO of Christian Aid Ireland for nearly five years after taking redundancy as head of communications with Danske Bank.

She explained her sudden change in career: “My mum had died the summer before and it was just when I did the eulogy at her funeral I suddenly thought my mum never went to university but was probably one of the wisest people I knew.

“I thought about what she had done and what she had achieved, working for people and caring for people, and I thought, ‘What on earth am I doing with my life?’.

“It’s been a very steep learning curve for me, I’ve always supported Christian Aid, but as soon as I joined I’ve done a huge amount of travelling to places where there has been conflict like Iraq, Gaza, Angola, Myanmar, Rwanda and Burundi.”

Rosamund has three children – Louis, 17, Judy, 15, and Reuben, 11. Her husband Carl is a primary school teacher.

She said: “They’re very supportive of my work. They come with me to talks and when we have a global meeting every year and people come over from all over the world I always bring them home so the children can meet them and can be exposed to different cultures and backgrounds.

“It’s important to broaden their outlook because I think the way life’s going at the minute outlooks are getting narrower.

“It’s important to have that human connection.”