A SOLDIER is using her experiences in Bosnia to spread the word of tolerance in her community.

Army captain Rachael Phillips from Darlington has spent her adult life travelling through war zones and working with communities at the heart of conflict across the world.

As a cultural specialist the 29-year-old works closely with those whose lives have been torn apart by war, spending time in Afghanistan and most recently, Bosnia.

The 1992-1995 Bosnian War saw large scale atrocities, genocide and a campaign of ethnic cleansing lead to the killing of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys and the mass expulsion of about 30,000 civilians.

To mark the 20th anniversary of the end of the war, Captain Phillips travelled to Bosnia with the charity Remembering Srebrenica to learn more about the wartime experiences of its people.

She has now pledged to do all she can to spread the word of tolerance and send a clear message to future generations – “never again”.

Speaking at her Darlington home, she said: “Srebrenica is the location of what some call the worst genocide since the Holocaust.

“I haven’t lived a sheltered life but the four days I spent learning about the scale and senselessness of it all were some of the hardest, most moving days I’ve experienced.

“This was an extermination of thousands of people that happened so recently – this was not something that happened to your grandparents’ generation, this was in recent memory.

“I have a stiff upper lip but learning about it had me crying desperately – it was awful and the world needs to remember it.”

Captain Phillips is now offering to share her experiences with schoolchildren and community groups throughout the region.

In doing so, she hopes to drum home the importance of supporting a multicultural and tolerant society.

She said: “Muslims were killed because they were ethnically different.

“Before the war, they lived in a multicultural, secular society like ours.

“I don’t think we have a big problem in the North-East but there will be people who fear what is different from them.

“That can cause tension and if it gets out of hand we could soon be dealing with something very serious.

“What happened in Bosnia may never happen here but after the second world war, we said never again and in 1995, it happened – we must build bridges and understanding between communities.”

Anyone interested in having Captain Phillips as a guest speaker can email her on rachael.phillips4190@gmail.com.