Noohadra/Dohuk, Iraq -- Saint Odisho Monastery, dating back to the fourth century, still stands tall serving Christians in the small village of Dere just four kilometers east of the historic town of Amedi in Duhok province.
To get there, one needs to take the road that turns around on the side of the mountain and runs along the cliffs, three km after getting through the Sulav gorge.
Locally called Mar Odisho, the monastery is situated in a forested place in the mountainous village of Dere.
It used to be only accessible to walkers or horse riders. Nowadays, it is suitable for cars too.
Father Elias Dawud Hohanna, born in Dere in 1935, has been leading services and taking care of the monastery since 1973.
"The monastery was destroyed twice, once in 1963 by the Iraqi government of Abd al-Salam Arif," Father Elias told Kurdistan 24.
It was reconstructed by people in 1985 but a couple of years later, in May 1987 during the Anfal campaign, it was destroyed for the second time, this time by the Saddam Hussein regime.
Fr. Elias and other members of the Assyrian Church of the East didn't give up and rebuilt the monastery to receive Assyrian faithful in the Kurdistan region and Iraq.
"We only relied on donations from the community to rebuild both times, we reused pieces of the original building," he said.
According to Fr. Elias, people of different faiths and ethnicities from all over the Kurdistan Region and Iraq visit the monastery, especially during spring and summer, as in winter and autumn, the weather is very cold in Dere village.
"Infertile women hoping to become pregnant, ill people hoping to become healthier visit the monastery, it's a sacred and ancient place, people pray and believe their prayers will be answered," he added.
The day of Mar Odisho is a big religious event when over one thousand people annually visit and participate in ceremonies at the monastery.
Mar Odisho was born in modern-day Mardin in Turkey and later became the first Assyrian bishop in the Sinjar region.
He is believed to have been murdered 704 years ago under the orders of Shapur II the Great, the Persian monarch, whose reign is known for persecuting Christians.
Mar Odisho is recognized for writing Marganitha, one of the very important church texts of the Assyrian Church of the East as well as legal texts.
Fr. Elisa says for the past 50 years he has been serving the monastery as a volunteer without receiving any special salary and promised that he will continue to do so till the end of his life.
Fr. Elisa explained that is known that in the past, the unique topography of Dere village sheltered Peshmerga, including the Kurdish leader Mullah Mustafa Barzani during the Kurdish revolutions.
This monastery has been here since the year 311, and this village's name comes from (Der) a word meaning church in the local language, this is my home and I will stay here." He said.
He also hoped that government can pay more attention to this monastery and hopefully build a kind of hotel in the village,
Because many visitors coming from faraway areas wish to stay overnight yet can't, as there are no such places available inside the village.