The ancient Rabban Hermizd Monastery, on a hill overlooking the northern village of al-Qosh, is a testament to the long history of Christians in Iraq. Stone walls leading up the hill are decorated with iconography, and the 7th-century monastery is covered with the ancient Syriac language, still spoken today by the people of al-Qosh.
"Christians have been here in the Ninevah plains for thousands of years. It would be a tragedy if we just disappeared," said Athra Kado, a local Syriac language teacher.
But on Aug. 6 of last year, the people of al-Qosh did disappear, in a manner of speaking.
The self-declared Islamic State, or ISIS, was within about six miles and had been advancing rapidly in northern Iraq, overrunning Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, as well as other towns and villages in the area.