Before the US-led invasion in 2003, about 1.5 million Christian lived in Iraq. Now less than 250,000 remain, many of whom have been displaced from their homes in the north of the country by the advance of Islamic State (Isis).

In July 2014 the extremist militants issued a decree that all Christians living in areas of its control must convert to Islam or face death. Thousands fled their homes, having time only to grab one or two small items. These treasured possessions have become more precious the longer they are forced to stay away from their homes, friends and families.

Photographer Matt Cardy visited a refugee camp in Erbil and spoke to former residents of the Christian town of Qaraqosh. He asked them what was the one thing they could not bear to leave behind, apart from their families.

iraq Christian refugees
Anwar Nassir, a drum maker from Qaraqosh, had to leave most of jis musical instruments behind as, after he made sure his family had left safely, he only could travel on a small motorbike. "They can take whatever they want, but I pray that they will have left my instruments"Matt Cardy/Getty Images
iraq Christian refugees
Fatin Atheer, a six-year-old schoolgirl, left Qaraqosh with nothing but the clothes she was wearing, but missed the junior laptop she was forced to leave. Her father managed to find the same model for sale in a market in Erbil and purchased it for herMatt Cardy/Getty Images
iraq Christian refugees
A widowed housewife from Qaraqosh who asked not to named chose her crucifixMatt Cardy/Getty Images
iraq Christian refugees
Kamil Abdulahad, a retired tanner from Qaraqosh, chose his old military service recordsMatt Cardy/Getty Images
iraq Christian refugees
An Iraqi Christian student from Qaraqosh who asked not to be named chose her mobile phoneMatt Cardy/Getty Images
iraq Christian refugees
Jandark Jibrael, a tailor from Qaraqosh, picked her gold cross and necklaceMatt Cardy/Getty Images
iraq Christian refugees
Annosa Ishaac, a nurse from Qaraqosh, brought her passportMatt Cardy/Getty Images
iraq Christian refugees
Anas Khaleel, a student and tiler from Qaraqosh, selected his Samsung smartphoneMatt Cardy/Getty Images
iraq Christian refugees
Raneen Nisan, a widowed housewife from Qaraqosh who asked not to have her face shown, chose her three crucifixesMatt Cardy/Getty Images
iraq Christian refugees
Khidhir Badry, a tractor driver from Qaraqosh, chose his picture of Jesus and MaryMatt Cardy/Getty Images
iraq Christian refugees
Shony Franso, a housewife from Qaraqosh, chose her jewelleryMatt Cardy/Getty Images
iraq Christian refugees
Najeeb Mansoor, a blacksmith from Qaraqosh, chose his identity papersMatt Cardy/Getty Images
iraq Christian refugees
Heleen Dawood, a housewife from Qaraqosh, rescued her BibleMatt Cardy/Getty Images
iraq Christian refugees
Nawar Jarjees, a carpenter from Qaraqosh, chose his car and his laptopMatt Cardy/Getty Images
iraq Christian refugees
Rafo Polis, a retired teacher from Qaraqosh, said he brought nothing but his faith and that was his most treasured possessionMatt Cardy/Getty Images