'Are you serious? I'm Muslim!' parolee told the judge who sentenced him to Luke 15 house
By Josh Tng
Photo Caption: Freddy Emami speaks to attendees at Luke 15 House’s 25th anniversary celebration. He is thankful Luke 15 changed his life for the better. (Josh Tng / The B.C. Catholi)
When the judge sent Freddy Emami to a Luke 15 House, a residence for prison parolees, Emami told him he’d rather go to jail.
“Are you serious?” he asked the judge. “Jail is my home! I’m Muslim! I can’t go to a Christian house!”
Despite his protests, Emami found himself at the doorsteps of Surrey’s Luke 15 House.
Emami was born in Iran and at a young age when the Iranian Revolution occurred, splitting both the country and his family. “I came from a very good family, but my father, because he was in the army, lost his job during the revolution,” said Emami.
He decided to journey on his own, drifting through the ranks of freedom fighters and armies alike, before finally immigrating to Canada in 1993, hoping to start a new life.
“Since I left my family, there was always something empty,” he said.
He turned to drugs to numb the loneliness. “Nothing changed though when I arrived,” admitted Emami. “I was back in the streets here, and was doing drugs in and out of jail.”
So in 2009, Emami found himself before a particular judge who insisted on sending him to the Christian-based transition home. “He told me after one year I would come back to the court house and be sentenced then,” he recounted.
“And so that’s how I ended up in Luke 15 House. While I was there, my life changed. Six years later, I returned to that courtroom in Vancouver, and I thanked the judge for changing my life.”
Nigel Vincent, executive director of Luke 15 House, says Emami is “the one person I know that reached sobriety after his first attempt; he’s never gone back, he’s never had a slip. Here he is today, eight years later, and it is awesome.”
In addition, “Freddy was very helpful in teaching me about addiction, gangs, jail and all that stuff.”
Inside the home, Emami “learned how to be of service, instead of always asking for help,” said Vincent.
For Emami, Luke 15 was life-changing. “The house for me was the breach from darkness to light, from loneliness to family, from feeling lost and finding myself.”
With the help of other participants in the home and members of the staff, Emami found brothers. “Luke 15 House for me was my close family. I never feel a stranger when I go there.”
His pangs of loneliness faded, replaced with love for his new family. “Whenever I feel lonely in the darkness of my head, I think about Luke 15,” said Emami. Before going to the home, he had never had a job. “The job I have today is one of my first jobs, and I’ve been working for six months, amen!”
The faith he found mirrored in participants of the house inspired him to convert to Catholicism. “I remember I called my dad and asked him, ‘Is it okay I’ve become Christian?’” Emami laughed.
“He told me to believe in something. And that was it. I found something to believe in. It was one of the best things that ever happened to me.”