Donald Trump and Pope Francis Are 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Nominees

Pope Francis talks aboard the papal plane while en route to Italy September 28, 2015. The pope left the United States on Sunday night, departing from Philadelphia International Airport on an American Airlines flight to Rome. | (Photo: REUTERS/Tony Gentile)

Donald Trump and Pope Francis are among the nominees for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize, experts confirmed Wednesday. 

Along with Trump and the pope, the names of two other candidates have been released, including the Afghan Women's Cycling Team and Nadia Murad, who escaped Islamic State captivity and is now an activist for rape victims. 

More names are expected to be released throughout the month of February, and members of the five-person Norwegian Nobel Committee can submit their own votes for candidates after their February 29 meeting.

According to Kristian Berg Harpviken, director of Oslo's Peace Research Institute, Trump was nominated for the outstanding award by an anonymous U.S. politician just days before the February 1 deadline.

Harpviken, whose institute analyzes the most probable winner of the prize, told The Telegraph that he had received a letter confirming the U.S. presidential candidate's nomination. 

Although Trump has received criticism for his frequently fiery rhetoric against the U.S. Muslim population, the letter describes Trump's approach as "a threat weapon of deterrence against radical Islam, ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant - ISIL], nuclear Iran and Communist China," adding that the presidential candidate uses "vigorous peace-through-strength ideology." 

Harpviken added to The Telegraph that while he must keep the identity of Trump's nominator secret, he can confirm that the letter is valid. 

"I have committed not to reveal the identity of the nominator, but what I can say is that the nominator has shared a copy of his nomination letter directly with me, that the nominator has a position which gives him the right to nominate, and that I consider it valid," Harpviken, an expert on the Nobel Peace Prize, told the media outlet.

Although the pope has been a strong contender for the Nobel Peace Prize for the past two years, he has repeatedly implored the committee to select a different recipient, suggesting there are those who have achieved greater social change than himself. 

Francis, who has received the backing of Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu, has been championed as the "people's pope" for his work reforming the Catholic Church in the 21st Century, making it more accessible and appealing to younger generations and moderate Catholics.

Late last year, the pope privately met with the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, the 2015 winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, calling them "architects of peace" for their work rebuilding Tunisia's democracy after the Jasmine Revolution in 2011.

Although Pope Francis and Donald Trump are making international headlines for their nominations, world leaders have called on other candidates to be considered for the prize.

Audun Lysbakken, leader of Norway's Socialist Left Party, told The Associated Press that she nominated Yazidi activist Nadia Murad for the award to call attention to the international issue of sex slavery.

Murad is now an activist for sexually abused women after she escaped captivity by the Islamic State.

"We want a peace prize that can awaken the world to the fight against sexual violence as a weapon of war," the Norwegian lawmaker said in a statement.

Previous recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize include teenage education activist Malala Yousafzai in 2014, children's rights activist Kailash Satyarthi in 2014, and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in 2013.

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