‘Pray for Peace’ walker brings his message through Manchester

By Dawn Rzeznikiewicz - ReminderNews
Manchester - posted Thu., Sep. 12, 2013
Al Forte recently walked through Connecticut on his way to New York City. Photo by D. Coffey.
Al Forte recently walked through Connecticut on his way to New York City. Photo by D. Coffey.

Al Forte is an extrovert. He gets his energy from being around other people. When he gets excited, he raises his voice and lifts slightly off his seat, leaning in; when he elaborates, he uses big gestures; and when he laughs, you can’t help it, you smile too.

As it happens, Forte is currently spending the majority of his days alone. The 70-year-old, Stamford, Conn., resident is walking his 11th Pray for Peace Walk from Boston to New York.

“A policeman once said to me, ‘When did you start walking?' I replied, ‘Around 1,'” said Forte, laughing.

The real answer is in 2008, when Forte completed his first Pray for Peace Walk from New York to Chicago, during which he stopped at every major league baseball stadium he could. “I got to the games and onto the fields. I always expected by Pittsburgh, I’d be up on the big screen - never happened,” said Forte.

Since 2005, Forte has been handing out cards encouraging people to pray for peace.  So far, he’s handed out about 40,000 cards. “It’s difficult, you can imagine, standing on the street saying, 'Hey, can I give you a card?' Were they going to think I was some sort of religious fanatic?” said Forte.

Then, Forte decided he could do something more.

Fortunately, the majority of response Forte receives is positive. During this trip, Forte met a family who offered to cook dinner for him and his friend, Joe Ross. Ross travels with Forte on every walk.

At 7:30 a.m., Ross drives Forte to where he left off walking from the previous day, picks Forte back up at 11:30 a.m. and then returns Forte to his route at 3 p.m. Ross also ensures the roads on the planned routes are safe to walk down, brings Forte water if it is a particularly hot day and rescues Forte from any storms.

On his walks, Forte carries only his iPhone with which to check routes and call Ross. “I pray every now and then. Sometimes I just take in the beauty. It’s amazing when you drive how you don’t see stuff. You drive through so quick when you’re on the road,” said Forte.

Forte claims more people participate in prayer than want to admit it. “A lot of us pray. But we don’t all talk about it. So I almost think prayer is in the closet,” said Forte. “I don’t mind who people pray to. If it’s working for them, it’s working for them.”

But Forte’s goals for these walks are not just about getting people to pray for peace. “A lot of us, including myself, complain about things. But that’s all we do! Let’s have this big argument about something - nothing happens,” said Forte.

The Pray for Peace Walks are about doing something positive that registers with people.

Ross added, “People who don’t listen to what he’s saying, but have seen him in the paper and then see him walking - that really stuns people. The rhetoric of praying isn’t what affects these people. It was that there is this man out there walking, doing something.”


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