TEHRAN (Press Shia Agency) – Pope Francis knelt to kiss the feet of South Sudan’s previously warring leaders on Thursday in a dramatic gesture to urge them to avoid civil war.

– World news –

The Pope appealed to President Salva Kiir, his former deputy turned rebel leader Riek Machar, and three other vice presidents to respect an armistice they signed and commit to forming a unity government next month, Reuters reported.

“I am asking you as a brother to stay in peace. I am asking you with my heart, let us go forward,” the 82-year-old pontiff said after he performed the rare gesture.

President Salva Kiir and his rival, the former rebel leader Riek Machar, clashed in 2013 leading to a civil war that left 400,000 people dead.

But they signed a peace agreement last year that brought the war to an end.