BAKUFA, Iraq—

Christian soldiers triumphantly replaced the black ISIS flag above Bakufa with their own white standard after overthrowing the militants. The small village, once home to 500 people, was reclaimed by Kurdish peshmerga fighters.

After a bought of house-to-house battling, the Kurdish fighters expelled the ISIS militants and remained long enough to establish a volunteer-based village militia. Approximately 70 volunteer men comprise the group known as Dwekh Nawsha, or “self-sacrifice.”

Most of the region’s 12,000 Christians fled the initial ISIS onslaught earlier this summer. Dwekh Nawsha members faithfully patrol their village streets, while praying for the return of their families.

“We must depend on ourselves to defend our land for now and the future,” Caesar Jacob, a deputy of to the Christian militia’s commander, told the Associated Press.

An electrician, Jacob recalled working “side-by-side” with the peshmerga fighters before Dwekh Nawsha adopted command of Bakufa.

Home to a 200-year-old monastery, Bakufa and its neighboring villages echo the historical prominence of the ancient Mesopotamian civilization.

“It is the priority of Dwekh Nawsha to protect the sons of this region, as well as the region itself – including its monasteries, churches, artifacts,” the militia’s commander, Albert Kisso, told the Associated Press.

Sorely lacking funds, the group’s volunteers must provide their own guns. With more supplies, the soldiers estimate they could outfit a force of 250.

When not writing, Sierra can be found conducting experiments in the chemistry lab or whipping up delectable creations in her kitchen. With a passion for storytelling, Sierra puts her natural curiosity to use investigating enlightening angles for news and events here at The Oregon Optimist.